The rise of pride

The history of the pride movement goes back to the 1960s when some brave people stood up for our community. It all began with the ‘Stonewall Riots’…

The rise of pride

Some might say that LGBTQ+ activists of the past belong in the past, but today we’re dusting off the old history books to take you on a trip down memory lane to the rebellious 1960s while sending a loving thought to the people who helped us get to where we are today.

Greenwich Village, New York City. Like today, in the 1960s the neighbourhood had a large concentration of sexual minorities. It was a time when the New York State police force would arrest you for being gay and in the early 1960s local authorities set out on an official witch hunt for homosexual men as the mayor, Robert F. Wagner Jr., was becoming worried about the city’s image.

Alcohol became forbidden in bars frequently visited by gay men and as part of a new campaign launched by the mayor the police force was assigned a special task; to arrest as many gay men as possible.

Policemen used themselves as bait in the mission; an undercover police officer would walk into a bar or public park and approach a man. If the conversation turned “steamy” or if the man approached accepted a drink from the undercover police officer he would get arrested.

The witch hunt takes us to Christopher Street to a pub named Stonewall Inn that has become a significant part of the pride movement history referred to as the Stonewall Riots.

A late night in June of 1969, the police targeted Stonewall Inn, and demanded that the bar closed for the night. The music stopped playing, lights were turned on and more than 200 guests were asked to get in line to show their ID before being escorted out the door.

The atmosphere was tense and the combination of angry, frustrated guests and violent police officers made the situation escalate within minutes. People gathered outside of Stonewall Inn and loudly protested against the police officers’ violent behavior.

It didn’t take long before bricks and bottles were flying through the air and the increasing number of angry protesters had the police seek shelter at the bar that they had just shut down while waiting for backup.

The clock struck 4 am before Christopher Street was once again quiet that night.

Protests went on the following nights uniting the LGBTQ+ community in a way that was not experienced before. The Stonewall Riots was a historic moment referred to as the start of the gay rights movement and the beginning of organised pride parades still evolving each year on a global basis.

One year after the Stonewall Riots, 28 June 1970, the first pride parade was organised in New York City, USA.

The first organised pride parade had a domino effect and other US cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago quickly followed in the footsteps of New York City. One year later the trend had reached Europe where the LGBTQ+ community marched in the streets of London, Paris, Berlin and Stockholm.

In Denmark the first pride parade took place in 1996 in Copenhagen; the same year as the city hosted Europride. In 1995 the first pride parade marched the streets of Malmö.

four women at pride  highlighting bisexuality

Four women at pride highlighting bisexuality.

New York City Pride Parade 1983; gay nurses alliance

New York City Pride Parade 1983; gay nurses alliance.

New York City Pride Parade - 1970s

New York City Pride Parade – 1970s.

Photo: © Lesbian Herstory Archives

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