Following the social disturbance of World War II, many people in the United States felt a keen desire to “restore the pre-war social order and hold off the forces of change”, according to historian Barry Adam. Urged by the national emphasis on anti-communism, Senator Joseph McCarthy conducted hearings searching for communists in the U.S. government, the U.S. Army, and other government-funded agencies and institutions, leading to paranoia on a national scale. Anarchists, communists, and other people considered un-American and subversive were considered security risks. Gay men and lesbians were included in this list by the U.S. State Department on the theory that they were prone to blackmail. Between 1947 and 1950, 1,700 federal job applications were denied, 4,380 people were discharged from the military, and 420 were fired from their government jobs for being suspected homosexuals.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and police departments kept lists of known homosexuals, their preferred establishments, and friends; the U.S. Post Office kept track of addresses where material pertaining to homosexuality was sent. State and local governments followed suit: bars catering to gay men and lesbians were raided and closed down, and their customers were arrested and exposed in newspapers. Cities performed “sweeps” to rid neighbourhoods, parks, bars, and beaches of gay people. They banned the wearing of opposite gender clothes, and universities expelled lecturers suspected of being homosexual.
Let’s go back 50 years from today. The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York City, was and still is an iconic gay bar. With gay Americans facing an anti-gay legal system they decided enough is enough. During the early hours of the morning on June 28, 1969 police were about to do their routine raid on the bar but nobody expected what was to come over the next six days. Protests, violence and arrests were the main focus for those few days and the riots are still as significant and important today as they were back then.
After the Stonewall riots, gays and lesbians in New York City strived to become a solid community. Within weeks, residents rapidly organized into activist groups to concentrate efforts on founding places for gays and lesbians to be open about their sexual orientation without the fear of being arrested. Inside six months, two gay activist administrations were created in New York, focused on hostile tactics, and three newspapers were established to promote rights for gays and lesbians. Within a few years, gay rights organizations were founded across the U.S. and the world. Many people see The Stonewall Riots as the turning point for gay oppression due to it becoming a literal example of gays and lesbians fighting back, and a symbolic call to arms for many people.
Exactly one year after the riots came the first Gay Pride event which has grown to what it is today and takes place throughout the world. This year marks 50 years since The Stonewall Riots took place and to celebrate New York was hosts to the world’s largest Pride event ever with over 5 million people attending over the weekend and over 150,000 people taking part in the 12 hour parade.
The 50th anniversary of The Stonewall Riots is the theme for this years Parade at Derby Pride and anybody can join in the fabulous walk through the City Centre celebrating equality and diversity. Last year’s parade saw the best part of around 1,200 people take part in showing their support for the LGBT+ community to the rest of the city.