NEW YORK CITY — Friday, June 28, marks the 50th anniversary of what is widely considered to be the start of the modern gay rights movement.
It started in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, when police raided the Stonewall Inn in New York City's Greenwich Village neighborhood. The raid was nothing out of the ordinary as the police had frequently arrested people there for "soliciting homosexual behavior" or wearing clothing law enforcement deemed "non-gender appropriate."
Women had to prove they were wearing at least three feminine items of clothing while men dressed in drag were taken into the bathroom to verify their gender. Those considered in violation were arrested.
At the time, homosexuality was still illegal in 49 states (Illinois had revoked its laws against homosexuality in 1961). Gay bars, like Stonewall, had became a haven for gay men and lesbians looking to socialize without the risk of violence or discrimination.
Just before midnight on June 27, two undercover policewomen and two undercover policemen entered the bar to gather visual evidence, as the Public Morals Squad waited outside for the signal. The music was turned off and the main lights were turned on.
But the raid did not proceed like raids had in the past. Some in the crowd of 200 refused to produce identification, go to the bathrooms with officers to confirm their genders or be taken away by officers. Some ran out into the streets, where the commotion started attracting more people.
The number of protesters eventually grew to more than 1,000 people over the next several days. Some passively demonstrated and shouted while others started throwing bottles, garbage cans, rocks and bricks at the building. Nearly everything inside the Stonewall Inn was destroyed.
The riots lasted for six days. Only minor injuries were reported among the officers and the crowd before it was over. Leading into fall, the new gay activists were urging their followers to keep the peace.
Within six months, two gay activist organizations and three newspapers were established to promote rights for gays and lesbians. On the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the first Pride marches took place in major U.S. cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.
Today, LGBT Pride events are held annually throughout the world, often in June, to mark the Stonewall riots. In 2016, The Stonewall Inn was designated a national monument.