The First Gay Pride Was a Riot

June is here again, and with it, everything becomes more colorful. Company logos suddenly feature rainbows; their ads are full of smiling people in bright clothes. Even the products you see on the supermarket shelves got a rainbow makeover. Of course, none of that comes as a surprise — after all, June is Pride Month.

As fun as all the colors are, you've probably wondered — why June? Did we choose it for some particular reason? Well, it's time to delve into the LGBTQ movement's history and find out exactly what June represents to this community.

Police Raids of Gay Bars

LGBTQ people might not be welcome in all parts of society today, but back in the 1960s, things were much worse. They weren't just frowned upon but outright illegal in places such as New York City. They received virtually no support, so they often sought each other out in gay bars, hoping to create communities and lend each other a hand.

Unfortunately, before 1966, even that wasn't allowed. Bars couldn't serve alcohol to the members of the LGBTQ community unless they wanted to receive serious penalties. And even when this law changed in 1966, gay people couldn't express themselves in public. Even dancing with a member of the same sex was illegal, so the police often raided gay bars and harassed their patrons.

Stonewall Inn — The Place That Started It All

In such a climate, criminal organizations saw an opportunity. The oppressed LGBTQ minorities had to gather somewhere, and the Genovese crime family decided their bars would be perfect for that. Thus, they opened several gay bars in Greenwich Village, the most famous of which is Stonewall Inn.

Stonewall Inn didn't operate quite legally. To avoid obtaining a liquor license, the Genovese family registered it as a "bottle bar" — a type of bar where everyone brings their own alcohol. They also bought off parts of the police, making sure no one would come and check on their activities. 

The bar itself was far from pleasant, but it was probably the best LGBTQ people could hope for. It gave them a place to be, meet other members of the community, and even dance. That was much more than other places in NYC allowed.

Unfortunately, though, peace wasn't going to last. Despite the bribes, on the morning of June 28th, police raided Stonewall Inn, harassing and arresting its patrons and employees in the process. And though that wasn't the first nor the last time that happened, the LGBTQ community had enough. With the support of neighborhood residents, they gathered around the bar, protesting and refusing to leave.

From then on, things only escalated. Soon enough, the police had to barricade themselves in the bar, driven away by the angry rioters. The mob attempted to set the bar on fire a few times but to no avail. Still, that didn't crush their spirits because the riot continued for five more days.

The Aftermath of Stonewall Riots

Stonewall Riots provided just the incentive the LGBTQ community needed to fight against the status quo. A year later, on June 28th, thousands of people gathered for the first-ever Pride Parade. From then on, this event occurred annually in June, raising awareness of the struggles which this community faces.

But is one month a year really enough? Many corporations seem to think that slapping rainbows on their products in June shows true support. That's not the case, though — we, as a society, need to do better. We need to show the LGBTQ community that we recognize their struggles every day and that we're always on their side, not just in June.

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