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Why We Remember Stonewall

Stonewall Inn, Greenwich Village, New York City, 1969
LA Johnson
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NPR

The Stonewall Inn is a sacred place for many in the LGBTQ community. In 1969, a raid and series of riots outside the New York City bar helped launch a civil rights movement.

The Stonewall Inn was one of the only gay bars where patrons could dance uninhibited.
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NPR

Back in the 1960s, many bars in New York City were controlled by organized crime. Often they operated without proper paperwork, and corrupt police would collect monthly bribes to turn a blind eye.

Crooked cops would collect bribes from unlicensed bars to look the other way.
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NPR
Police thought they were in for a routine raid on a dingy gay bar, but something was different this time.
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NPR
Stonewall patrons stood up to police during a raid on June 28, 1969.
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A protest turned into a bloody fight.
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NPR

A fight started. Nearby bars emptied out as patrons heard the commotion, and more people joined in the fight. Others fled for safety. Soon the crowd turned into a mob. Police sent in reinforcements and crushed the protests. But what began that night didn't end there.

The next few days saw many protests and parties.
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NPR

The following days saw more protests. The movement became a "coming out party" of sorts in the streets of Greenwich Village. One year later, organizers commemorated the event with the first "Pride" parade. Stonewall was not the first rebellion, by far, in the LGBTQ movement. But over the years, many civil rights activists began coordinating their efforts and celebrating that hot summer night as "the first."

Stonewall spurred the first Pride parade.
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NPR

And Stonewall did change the lives of many people around the world. Like Michael Levine, who was there that night and, as he told Story Corps in 2010, came out because of it.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Stonewall attendee Michael Levine looks back on what changed after the event.
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NPR
Why we remember Stonewall.
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NPR

Corrected: June 27, 2024 at 8:03 AM EDT
’Fifty years ago’ was changed to ‘In 1969’ in order to accurately reflect when the events occurred.
LA Johnson
LA Johnson is an art director and illustrator at NPR. She joined in 2014 and has a BFA from The Savannah College of Art and Design.
Jennifer Vanasco
Jennifer Vanasco is an editor on the NPR Culture Desk, where she also reports on theater, visual arts, cultural institutions, the intersection of tech/culture and the economics of the arts.
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