Stonewall Inn after riots in 1969
What is "Stonewall"?
"Stonewall" refers to the Stonewall Inn - a bar in New York City. While a bar may seem an odd namesake for a political organization, the connection is clearly understood by millions of gay and lesbian Americans, and individuals around the world.
The Stonewall Inn is considered by many to be the birthplace of the modern movement for equality. For most of the 20th century, laws forbade gay Americans from congregating. In many states, like New York, it was illegal to serve alcohol to homosexuals. Police conducted routine raids, and arrested individuals on a regular basis. With few legal places to meet, gays and lesbians often faced jailing if they chose to live their lives openly.On June 27, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn for the second time that week. Although raids in New York City had become routine, police force that night was especially blunt. As police handcuffed patrons, the crowd grew resistant and began to push back. After a paddy wagon was overturned, more people from the surrounding neighborhood joined the group and the police retreated. The "riot" continued through the next night, and over the course of a week as New Yorkers defended their community from the police. After Stonewall, the small gay community in New York began to organize, and it became more difficult for police to enforce anti-gay laws.
The following year, New Yorkers staged a march to commemorate the Stonewall event. That march helped inspire small gay communities around the country to organize - and it helped usher in the modern "gay rights" movement. Since 1970, individuals have commemorated Stonewall by holding marches and pride events in the month of June.
Stonewall is a touchstone for the lgbt community, and the Stonewall Inn is still open - and is now registered as a national historical location. Various groups around the world have chosen to name their organizations after "Stonewall." It is a word, in the lgbt community, that is instantly recognized as representing the living of open, honest and unafraid lives.
From an email sent by Keith Smith of The Smith Group