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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall

Posted by on Tue, Jan 22, 2013 at 8:15 AM

Frank Bruni:

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall,” the president said, taking a rapt country on a riveting trip to key theaters in the struggle for liberty and justice for all.

Seneca Falls is a New York town where, in 1848, the women’s suffrage movement gathered momentum. Selma is an Alabama city where, in 1965, marchers amassed, blood was shed and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood his ground against the unconscionable oppression of black Americans.

And Stonewall? This was the surprise inclusion, separating Obama’s oratory and presidency from his predecessors’ diction and deeds. It alludes to a gay bar in Manhattan that, in 1969, was raided by police, who subjected patrons to a bullying they knew too well. After the raid came riots, and after the riots came a more determined quest by L.G.B.T. Americans for the dignity they had long been denied.

The causes of gay Americans and black Americans haven’t always existed in perfect harmony, and that context is critical for appreciating Obama’s reference to Stonewall alongside Selma. Blacks have sometimes questioned gays’ use of “civil rights” to describe their own movement, and have noted that the historical experiences of the two groups aren’t at all identical. Obama moved beyond that, focusing on the shared aspirations of all minorities. It was a big-hearted, deliberate, compelling decision.

It's a good thing the NYPD didn't raid the End Up or the Manhole on that sweltering night in 1969. From the Wiki page for the Stonewall Riots:

When the first patrol wagon arrived, Inspector Pine recalled that the crowd—most of whom were homosexual—had grown to at least ten times the number of people who were arrested, and they all became very quiet. Confusion over radio communication delayed the arrival of a second wagon. The police began escorting Mafia members into the first wagon, to the cheers of the bystanders. Next, regular employees were loaded into the wagon. A bystander shouted, "Gay power!", someone began singing "We Shall Overcome", and the crowd reacted with amusement and general good humor mixed with "growing and intensive hostility." An officer shoved a transvestite, who responded by hitting him on the head with her purse as the crowd began to boo.... A scuffle broke out when a woman in handcuffs was escorted from the door of the bar to the waiting police wagon several times. She escaped repeatedly and fought with four of the police, swearing and shouting, for about ten minutes. Described as "a typical New York butch" and "a dyke—stone butch," she had been hit on the head by an officer with a billy club for, as one witness claimed, complaining that her handcuffs were too tight. Bystanders recalled that the woman, whose identity remains unknown, sparked the crowd to fight when she looked at bystanders and shouted, "Why don't you guys do something?"

After an officer picked her up and heaved her into the back of the wagon, the crowd became a mob and went "berserk."

"It was at that moment that the scene became explosive."

She was the mother—the stone butch mother—of our movement.


Comments (13) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
So great. Never thought it would happen in my lifetime.
Posted by gloomy gus on January 22, 2013 at 8:24 AM · Report this
Looking For a Better Read 2
"Why don't you guys do something?"

A question we should ask ourselves, about many a thing, every day.
Posted by Looking For a Better Read on January 22, 2013 at 8:34 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 3
We have a truly great president.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on January 22, 2013 at 8:46 AM · Report this
Interesting that the woman who started the riot is still unknown. Would love to hear her story.
Posted by Patricia Kayden on January 22, 2013 at 8:48 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 5

He didn't mention the Whiskey Rebellion.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on January 22, 2013 at 10:00 AM · Report this
Ophian 6
Posted by Ophian on January 22, 2013 at 11:13 AM · Report this
Hawke 7
How lovely that Trans history of that time has been completely erased.
Posted by Hawke on January 22, 2013 at 12:27 PM · Report this

What is especially satisfying and awesome is that he didn't "have" to do it, but did. I'm in love with witnessing history.

Posted by Velvetbabe on January 22, 2013 at 2:55 PM · Report this
I heard some lame local NBC affiliate anchor who was covering the inauguration describe Stonewall as "anti-gay riots." They're going to have to step it up now that it is on the official recitation of civil rights flash points.
Posted by Pablo Picasso on January 22, 2013 at 6:00 PM · Report this
Hi Dan. Don't know if you were able to see the outstanding Stonewall play, "Hit the Wall" this past season here in Chicago. It played at the Steppenwolf Garage. If not, you must make it to NY to see it at the Barrow Street theater. Previews are scheduled to start Feb. 19th. The local critics here gave it 4 stars. It's not to be missed.…
Posted by MarkJ on January 22, 2013 at 8:58 PM · Report this
OutInBumF 11
That woman may well be in her 70's by now. It's a shame that no one who was there can find her name. Weren't there arrest records or other witnesses that could be consulted?
Were I a smarter man, I'd take on that project. Talk about a shot heard around the world...thank you, Ms Anonymous, thank you.
Posted by OutInBumF on January 23, 2013 at 1:25 AM · Report this
hahahaha! Or THE MONSTER!! OR DRAINPIPE!! hahahaha!
Posted by poemmaker59 on January 23, 2013 at 6:32 AM · Report this
hahahaha! Or.....MONSTER! Or........DRAINPIPE! hahahaha!
Posted by poemmaker59 on January 23, 2013 at 6:35 AM · Report this

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