FARGO — On June 28, 1969, police in New York City raided a gay nightclub in Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn.
As police began trying to arrest patrons and employees, many refused to go quietly and a riot erupted that involved not just people in the bar but eventually spread to include residents of nearby neighborhoods.
What followed was six days of protests and clashes with police outside the Stonewall Inn and surrounding area.
The rioting and the attention it garnered was a galvanizing moment in history and many point to it as one of the sparks that ignited LGBT activism that continues to this day.
Organizations throughout the Fargo-Moorhead community are marking the 50th anniversary of the riots with a number of activities, including a panel discussion, community dance, art festival and artists reception.
The F-M LGBT Film Festival and the Fargo Theatre kicked off events on Wednesday, June 26, with a free community screening of "Gay USA," a movie containing footage of the post-Stonewall Gay Pride March in New York in 1970 and other historic footage.
Other events are being held Friday, June 28, through Sunday, June 30.
Sunday activities include the "Honoring Stonewall Art Festival Artists Reception and Talk" set for 1 to 3 p.m. in St. Mark's Lutheran Church Chapel, 355 6th Ave. S., Fargo.
The event is hosted by Fargo's St. Mark's Lutheran Church and the North Dakota Human Rights Art Festival.
Artists will be on hand to talk about the inspirations and motivations by their works and attendees will vote to select a "People's Choice" award, with the artist selected receiving a $100 prize.
The art festival display will run through Sunday, July 28.
Both the exhibition and Sunday's reception are free and open to the public.
Pastor Joe Larson of St. Marks Lutheran Church, who is openly gay, said the cultural changes that followed the Stonewall riots are important to him personally, even though when the events took place he was about 12 years old, and he did not become aware of what happened until much later.
"It really was a beginning point for the gay liberation movement," he said. "It's not something that changed overnight, but it really did instigate people's desire to be more visible."
Larson said some people were able to come out following Stonewall, but others continued to live more closeted lives because they faced possible discrimination if they came out.
"We're still fighting for rights," Larson said. "Here in North Dakota, we don't have legal protections; employers can still discriminate, people can still suffer discrimination in housing."
"We've come a long way, but there are still many states that don't have legal protections for our community," added Larson, who said his congregation at St. Mark's is a mixture of LGBT people and people sympathetic to that community, including straight parents of children who are queer and transgender.
"They come to us because they want to be in an accepting community," Larson said.