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I thought it might be worthwhile to point people at the Village Voice from those days.

I lived in New York City in 1969.

I remember Stonewall.

I remember especially how powerfully I was struck by reading two pieces in the Village Voice that hit the street a few days after the riots had started, and in a sense reenergized the protests, leading to a final night of rioting

On June 24, 2009, the Voice published Stonewall at 40: The Voice Articles That Sparked a Final Night of Rioting

One was by Howard Smith, who wound up inside the Stonewall with the police when the raid on an unlicensed bar led to a riot where the police were ready to open fire to defend themselves.  the other was by Lucian Truscott IV, a scion of a distinguished military family and himself a West Point graduate.   Both are very worth reading.

One person was dragged into Stonewall by the police, and beaten when he admitted havinmg thrown coins at the cops.  He was the singer Dave van Ronk, who when the disturbance had started had come out of the nearby Lion's Head, a well-known pub on Christopher Street often frequented by literary types such as Pete Hamill and Joel Oppenheimer, both of whom I got to know in my own visits to that establishment.  

Please keep reading.

There are many myths about various efforts to claim rights on behalf of persecuted groups.  They are not always completely true, even if they serve a purpose in building a sense of solidarity.

Stonewall could have been a tragedy, a real tragedy.  Allow me to quote from Smith's article, which I clearly remembered reading in real time:  

A door over to the side almost gives. One cop shouts, "Get away from there or I'll shoot!" It stops shaking. The front door is completely open. One of the big plywood windows gives, and it seems inevitable that the mob will pour in. A kind of tribal adrenaline rush bolsters all of us; they all take out and check pistols. I see both policewomen busy doing the same, and the danger becomes even more real. I find a big wrench behind the bar, jam it into my belt like a scimitar. Hindsight: my fear on the verge of being trampled by a mob fills the same dimension as my fear on the verge of being clubbed by the TPF.

Pine places a few men on each side of the corridor leading away from the entrance. They aim unwavering at the door. One detective arms himself in addition with a sawed-off baseball bat he has found. I hear, "We'll shoot the first motherfucker that comes through the door."

Pine glances over toward me. "Are you all right, Howard?" I can't believe what I'm saying: "I'd feel a lot better with a gun."

I can only see the arm at the window. It squirts a liquid into the room, and a flaring match follows. Pine is not more than 10 feet away. He aims his gun at the figures.

He doesn't fire. The sound of sirens coincides with the whoosh of flames where the lighter fluid was thrown. Later, Pine tells me he didn't shoot because he had heard the sirens in time and felt no need to kill someone if help was arriving. That was close.

The anniversary of Stonewall falls in the summer.  Still, given the President's recognition of its importance, it seemed appropriate to point people at this material.

Consider for example the beginning of Truscott's piece.  Here is the title and the intro:  

Gay Power Comes to Sheridan Square

By Lucian Truscott IV

Sheridan Square this weekend looked like something from a William Burroughs novel as the sudden specter of "gay power" erected its brazen head and spat out a fairy tale the likes of which the area has never seen.

The forces of faggotry, spurred by a Friday night raid on one of the city's largest, most popular, and longest lived gay bars, the Stonewall Inn, rallied Saturday night in an unprecedented protest against the raid and continued Sunday night to assert presence, possibility, and pride until the early hours of Monday morning. "I'm a faggot, and I'm proud of it!" "Gay Power!" "I like boys!" -- these and many other slogans were heard all three nights as the show of force by the city's finery met the force of the city's finest. The result was a kind of liberation, as the gay brigade emerged from the bars, back rooms, and bedrooms of the Village and became street people.

He toured the aftermath, when protests were going on, with Allen Ginsberg, the great poet.  That part of the piece is worthy of careful reading.  

Here are the final three paragraphs, with a focus on Ginsberg.:  

Ginsberg expressed a desire to visit the Stonewall -- "You know, I've never been in there" -- and ambled on down the street, flashing peace signs and helloing the TPF. It was a relief and a kind of joy to see him on the street. He lent an extra umbrella of serenity of the scene with his laughter and quiet commentary on consciousness, "gay power" as a new movement, and the various implications of what had happened. I followed him into the Stonewall, where rock music blared from speakers all around a room that might have come right from a Hollywood set of a gay bar. He was immediately bouncing and dancing wherever he moved.

He left, and I walked east with him. Along the way, he described how things used to be. "You know, the guys there were so beautiful -- they've lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago." It was the first time I had heard that crowd described as beautiful.

We reached Cooper Square, and as Ginsberg turned to head toward home, he waved and yelled, "Defend the fairies!" and bounced on across the square. He enjoyed the prospect of "gay power" and is probably working on a manifesto for the movement right now. Watch out. The liberation is under way.

the guys there were so beautiful -- they've lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago.

Ginsberg offered those words more than four decades ago.  It was true.  That was part of the beauty.

We now have a President who acknowledges the full humanity of those who were scorned, ridiculed, and worse four or more decades ago, those who some would prefer if not to push back into the closet then to demonize and punish any way they can, even killing them judicially when they or their allies in other nations have the power to do so.

It is well worth going back and seeing what Stonewall was, how courageous it was, in the summer of 1969.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (25+ / 0-)

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 12:22:42 PM PST

  •  It was extraordinary. (6+ / 0-)

    Mentioning Stonewall in the Address is an order of magnitude greater than an expression of support for equal marriage.  

    I've been very skeptical about supposed presidential turning points, but with the flat refusal to negotiate the debt ceiling and this broad and obviously intentional effort to raise expectations on several fronts, the turning point is likely real.  

    The President is probably the most skilled politician of his generation.  Determined to use all the tools available, and bold in the face of obstruction, we may get the transformation we've wanted.

    Thanks for this informative diary.

    •  depends on how you define generation (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mindara, MrJayTee, OIL GUY, SilentBrook

      in the past 30 years I would consider Bill Clinton the most skillful politician, which is why it was infuriating that he would not spend political capital on clearly winnable fights

      of course, Clinton is of my generation and we are both more than a decade and a half older than Obama.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 12:39:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Although you might call them both Baby Boomers (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        a2nite, SilentBrook, ChuckInReno

        I see--and feel--a clear difference between early Boomers like the Clintons, and late Boomers, like Obama (and me).  Early Boomers experienced a Cold War that was markedly less stable than the one experienced by late boomers growing up.  They also lived in an America that was still indisputably improving.  By the time late Boomers reached adulthood, economic stagnation and lowering expectations for the middle class were facts of life.  I also think it's fair to say that early Boomers had the good fortune to grow up in a society that was improving socially, however painful the process.  We late Boomers got the religious right and the full force of social and economic reaction.

        That difference, geo-strategic instability tempered by the promise of economic and social improvement vs. relative geo-strategic stability accompanied by plunging expectations and the rightist retrenchment, amount to a full generational difference despite the presence of both generations in one demographic bulge.

        How's that?

      •  Clinton is an amazing political (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MrJayTee, SilentBrook, xsonogall

        operator, but we shouldn't overlook the fact that a young, relatively inexperienced, African-American, with a funny name got himself elected to the Presidency and then got re-elected by an economically depressed nation with very high rates of unemployment.

        He was also able to pass vital, but unpopular, legislation to alleviate ,the worst of the Great Recession and to begin transforming our medical system. All of this was done with the vehement opposition of the Republicans and the rather tepid support of many Democrats.

        Here's my take on it - the revolution will not be blogged, it has to be slogged. - Deoliver47

        by OIL GUY on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 01:16:23 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Follow the link and look at the picture (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MrJayTee, SilentBrook, teacherken, willyr

    That fellow on the far right wearing the oversized dress shirt? His name was Roger Davis. We were roommates later on, in the late 1970s. Sweet guy. He taught me how to use a camera.

    When he told me he'd been at Stonewall and that his picture'd appeared in the Village Voice I thought he was joking. So he proved it to me. He visited the Village Voice's office and "borrowed" the bound volume for 1969 (I'm not at all sure they actually loaned those things out). To his credit, having made his point he brought the book back.

    •  Pretty good looking, despite the striped pants. (0+ / 0-)

      Where is he now?

      Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

      by willyr on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 01:55:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sad to say... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        willyr, AoT, jabney

        During the 1996 display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, I found a panel with his picture on it. He passed away in 1992.

        I left NYC in 1980 and did not stay in touch with many of my friends afterwards. He'd been through a great deal in his youth and later on. He came out when he was very young. That was not a fortunate thing to have done in the pre-Stonewall era. He'd been rejected by his family and was barely speaking to them when we met in 1977. I last saw him in either 1985 or 1986. At the time had been clean and sober for a year. I'm glad I ran into him when I did; he seemed very happy and had apparently had a reconciliation with his parents.

        Roger and I were virtual twins; he was born on June 4th, I on May 26th. When the famous picture was taken he'd only just turned 18...and you will recall that in 1969 the legal drinking age in New York State was 18. It wasn't raised to 21 until the mid-70's...not that it wasn't easy to get into bars if you were underage back then. Particularly if you were as goodlooking as Roger was.

        •  I'm sorry. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sfbob, AoT, jabney

          After posting that I regretted the question, fearing that might be the answer.

          Thanks for sharing his story.

          Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

          by willyr on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 04:53:07 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I started experiencing the shock (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sfbob, AoT

          when without searching out, but just walking through a complete display of the Aids Quilt in DC before it became too big to show it all I encountered panels of two students I had known at Haverford College.  One had been out there, there other had not, and in fact had briefly date my wife's next younger sister.   I also encountered several people I had known in NYC, and then there were the quilts for famous people such as Max Robinson and Terry Dolan, the latter having been a right-wing activist (NCPAC).

          I suppose there was/is a panel for Roy Cohn as well?

          "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

          by teacherken on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 05:55:19 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Worth reading (6+ / 0-)

    The National Historic Landmark nomination for Stonewall is a nice piece of analysis of the site and why it's important. The best part (which makes countless righties to have a sad) is where it not only compares Stonewall to the Civil Rights movement in its pivotal significance, but to the Boston Tea Party.

    The Stonewall uprising has been widely recognized as an exceptionally significant event in the gay rights movement. Stonewall was not the first time members of the gay and lesbian community had sought their rights. Rather, its significance lies in its role as a catalyst for the decades of significant change that followed. In this sense, Stonewall has been compared to the Boston Tea Party and to Rosa Parks sitting in the front section of a bus. The Boston Tea Party was not the first act of civil disobedience in the Revolutionary period, but it was a significant turning point; Rosa Parks' act of civil disobedience was not the first step in the black civil rights movement, but her actions were a catalyst for change. In the same way, the events of Stonewall galvanized gay men and lesbians and led to the development of the modern gay rights movement.

    "I'm not a humanitarian. I'm a hell-raiser." Mother Jones

    by histopresto on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 01:14:11 PM PST

  •  A side note on "Stonewall"... Colonial era drink (0+ / 0-)

    probably no connection between the name of the bar and the pre revolutionary war era drink... a potent combination of Rum and Hard cider... and it was called a "Stonewall"...

    "Mixing it up with AppleJack

    Probably the closest thing to America’s first mixed drink was one known as “stone-wall.” According to writer Alice Morse Earle, this early eighteenth century concoction included rum and cider as well as applejack, and was highly potent."

    But maybe the name of the bar is ultimately based on the 17th century drink... if so the name has some deep roots...

    Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

    by IreGyre on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 04:26:21 PM PST

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