Thousands of people had gathered in front of the Stonewall, which had opened again, choking Christopher Street until the crowd spilled into adjoining blocks. The throng surrounded buses and cars, harassing the occupants unless they either admitted they were gay or indicated their support for the demonstrators. Sylvia Rivera saw a friend of hers jump on a nearby car trying to drive through; the crowd rocked the car back and forth, terrifying its occupants. Another of Rivera's friends, Marsha P. Johnson, climbed a lamppost and dropped a heavy bag onto the hood of a police car, shattering the windshield. As on the previous evening, fires were started in garbage cans throughout the neighborhood. More than a hundred police were present from the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth Precincts, but after 2:00 a.m. the TPF arrived again. Kick lines and police chases waxed and waned; when police captured demonstrators, whom the majority of witnesses described as "sissies" or "swishes", the crowd surged to recapture them. Street battling ensued again until 4:00 a.m.

 

Beat poet and longtime Greenwich Village resident Allen Ginsberg lived on Christopher Street, and happened upon the jubilant chaos. After he learned of the riot that had occurred the previous evening, he stated, "Gay power! Isn't that great!... It's about time we did something to assert ourselves", and visited the open Stonewall Inn for the first time. While walking home, he declared to Lucian Truscott, "You know, the guys there were so beautiful—they've lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago".

 

"Intolerable situation"

 

Activity in Greenwich Village was sporadic on Monday and Tuesday, partly due to rain. Police and Village residents had a few altercations, as both groups antagonized each other. Craig Rodwell and his partner Fred Sargeant took the opportunity the morning after the first riot to print and distribute 5,000 leaflets, one of them reading: "Get the Mafia and the Cops out of Gay Bars". The leaflets called for gays to own their own establishments, for a boycott of the Stonewall and other Mafia-owned bars, and for public pressure on the mayor's office to investigate the "intolerable situation".

 

Not everyone in the gay community considered the revolt a positive development. To many older gays and many members of the Mattachine Society that had worked throughout the 1960s to promote homosexuals as no different from heterosexuals, the display of violence and effeminate behavior was embarrassing. Randy Wicker, who had marched in the first gay picket lines before the White House in 1965, said the "screaming queens forming chorus lines and kicking went against everything that I wanted people to think about homosexuals ... that we were a bunch of drag queens in the Village acting disorderly and tacky and cheap." Others found the closing of the Stonewall Inn, termed a "sleaze joint", as advantageous to the Village

 

On Wednesday, however, The Village Voice ran reports of the riots, written by Howard Smith and Lucian Truscott, that included unflattering descriptions of the events and its participants: "forces of faggotry," "limp wrists" and "Sunday fag follies". A mob descended upon Christopher Street once again and threatened to burn down the offices of The Village Voice. Also in the mob of between 500 and 1,000 were other groups that had had unsuccessful confrontations with the police, and were curious how the police were defeated in this situation. Another explosive street battle took place, with injuries to demonstrators and police alike, looting in local shops, and arrests of five people. The incidents on Wednesday night lasted about an hour, and were summarized by one witness: "The word is out. Christopher Street shall be liberated. The fags have had it with oppression."

 

Aftermath

 

The feeling of urgency spread throughout Greenwich Village, even to people who had not witnessed the riots. Many who were moved by the rebellion attended organizational meetings, sensing an opportunity to take action. On July 4, 1969, the Mattachine Society performed its annual picketing in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, called the Annual Reminder. Organizers Craig Rodwell, Frank Kameny, Randy Wicker, Barbara Gittings, and Kay Lahusen, who had all participated for several years, took a bus along with other picketers from New York City to Philadelphia. Since 1965, the pickets had been very controlled: women wore skirts and men wore suits and ties, and all marched quietly in organized lines.

 

This year Rodwell remembered feeling restricted by the rules Kameny had set. When two women spontaneously held hands, Kameny broke them apart, saying, "None of that! None of that!" Rodwell, however, convinced about ten couples to hold hands. The hand-holding couples made Kameny furious, but they earned more press attention than all of the previous marches. Participant Lilli Vincenz remembered, "It was clear that things were changing. People who had felt oppressed now felt empowered."

 

Rodwell returned to New York City determined to change the established quiet, meek ways of trying to get attention. One of his first priorities was planning Christopher Street Liberation Day.

 

Gay Liberation Front.

 

Although the Mattachine Society    (read more here)    had existed since the 1950s, many of their methods now seemed too mild for people who had witnessed or been inspired by the riots. Mattachine recognized the shift in attitudes in a story from their newsletter entitled, "The Hairpin Drop Heard Around the World". When a Mattachine officer suggested an "amicable and sweet" candlelight vigil demonstration, a man in the audience fumed and shouted, "Sweet! Bullshit! That's the role society has been forcing these queens to play."

 

With a flyer announcing: "Do You Think Homosexuals Are Revolting? You Bet Your Sweet Ass We Are!", the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was soon formed, the first gay organization to use "gay" in its name. Previous organizations such as the Mattachine Society, the Daughters of Bilitis, and various homophile groups had masked their purpose by deliberately choosing obscure names.

 

The rise of militancy became apparent to Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings—who had worked in homophile organizations for years and were both very public about their roles—when they attended a GLF meeting to see the new group. A young GLF member demanded to know who they were and what their credentials were. Gittings, nonplussed, stammered, "I'm gay. That's why I'm here."

 

The GLF borrowed tactics from and aligned themselves with black and antiwar demonstrators with the ideal that they "could work to restructure American society". They took on causes of the Black Panthers, marching to the Women's House of Detention in support of Afeni Shakur, and other radical New Left causes. Four months after they formed, however, the group disbanded when members were unable to agree on operating procedure.

 

Gay Activists Alliance

 

Within six months of the Stonewall riots, activists started a city-wide newspaper called Gay; they considered it necessary because the most liberal publication in the city—The Village Voice—refused to print the word "gay" in GLF advertisements seeking new members and volunteers. Two other newspapers were initiated within a six-week period: Come Out! and Gay Power; the readership of these three periodicals quickly climbed to between 20,000 and 25,000.

 

GLF members organized several same-sex dances, but GLF meetings were chaotic. When Bob Kohler asked for clothes and money to help the homeless youth who had participated in the riots, many of whom slept in Christopher Park or Sheridan Square, the response was a discussion on the downfall of capitalism.

 

In late December 1969, several people who had visited GLF meetings and left out of frustration formed the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA). The GAA was to be entirely focused on gay issues, and more orderly. Their constitution started, "We as liberated homosexual activists demand the freedom for expression of our dignity and value as human beings". The GAA developed and perfected a confrontational tactic called a zap, where they would catch a politician off guard during a public relations opportunity, and force him or her to acknowledge gay and lesbian rights. City councilmen were zapped, and Mayor John Lindsay was zapped several times—once on television when GAA members made up the majority of the audience.

 


The next night, rioting again surrounded Christopher Street; participants remember differently which night was more frantic or violent. Many of the same people returned from the previous evening—hustlers, street youths, and "queens"—but they were joined by "police provocateurs", curious bystanders, and even tourists. Remarkable to many was the sudden exhibition of homosexual affection in public, as described by one witness: "From going to places where you had to knock on a door and speak to someone through a peephole in order to get in. We were just out. We were in the streets."

STONEWALL

CONTINUED

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