For the last day of Pride, a great essay on the Stonewall riots by someone who was there. Here’s an excerpt:
Coming out of the subway station at Christopher Street, we could hear the commotion. The shoving and pushing by both protestors and police yanked three of us away from the core group; we were left to fend for ourselves. When we made our way into the crowd swarming the front of the Stonewall Inn, we, too, threw bottles, garbage, and anything we could get our hands on. In the midst of the riot, I realized the moment looked and felt similar to the Martin Luther King riot. But this time I knew who the LGBTQ folks fighting along with us were.
As the momentum of the crowd pushed my small group to Waverly Place, a block away from the Stonewall, we witnessed two white cops pummeling a black drag queen. “I should shove this stick up your ass,” said one of the cops as he pulled up her dress with a nightstick in his hand. The taller of the two cops yanked off her wig and laughingly tossed it to the other cop. Spotting us, the cop who caught the wig threw it at us yelling, “You nigger fags get away!”
The wig missed and landed about a foot away from us, but the cop’s words hit, striking fear. And with just the three of us traveling together — the boys were high-school football linebackers, I a middle schooler — and being the youngest and only girl with them, I felt vulnerable after having lost Nate, Sr., and the group. Witnessing the beat-down and disrobing of the drag queen made me want to cry, but I fought back the tears and ran, following the boys down the block.
When we came home the night of June 28, we still had no idea of Birdie’s fate. Throughout that day and the night before, we had witnessed so many Birdies beaten badly. We stopped by the Andersons to convey our concerns and that we had looked for Birdie. Cissy told us that he was safely home, having sustained a number of blunt trauma injuries: a black eye, assorted bruises, broken ribs, a sprained ankle, and a busted lip. None of us know how Nate, Sr., found Birdie in the riot, but he did; we assumed parental instinct trumped the seemingly impossible.
When I look back at the first night of the Stonewall Inn riots, I could have never imagined its future importance. The first night played out no differently from previous riots involving black Americans and white policemen. And so, too, did its being underreported. But I was there.
Hope everyone had a lovely pride month. Have some Oreos.