Day 6

What the Stonewall Inn means to the LGBT civil rights movement

In 2016, former U.S. president Barack Obama designated the Stonewall Inn in New York City as America's first national monument to the LGBT civil rights movement. In this Day 6 documentary, three members of the LGBT community reflect on the 1969 Stonewall uprisings, and how they're remembered today.

'Stonewall became this symbol of feeling empowered, of suddenly feeling that all these people were together'

The original Stonewall Inn didn't survive the 1969 police raid and riots that made it famous as a birthplace of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, but the current version will be a focal point of this week's celebrations marking the uprising's 50th anniversary. (Frank Franklin II/Associated Press)

June 28, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City. The riots were a defining moment in the gay liberation movement, culminating in a march marked today by Pride celebrations around the world.

In 2016, Day 6 reflected on the riots following former U.S. president Barack Obama's declaration designating the Stonewall Inn, where the riots took place, a national historic monument.

The original story runs below.

It's been nearly 50 years since the police raid that rocked the Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 28, 1969. And on Friday, President Barack Obama designated the site as a national historic monument to the ongoing struggle for LGBT rights.

For LGBT historian Lillian Faderman, Stonewall's designation as a national monument represents a powerful — if overdue — statement from the federal government. 

"We've come such a tremendously long way since I came out in the 1950s," Faderman said. "It's about time for such a monument." 

The 1969 raids at the Stonewall Inn sparked a massive, six-day uprising and launched the modern gay civil rights movement. The riots inspired the formation of the ground-breaking Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance — as well as the annual Pride Parade march that takes place each June around the world.

A man takes a photo outside the Stonewall Inn on the eve of the LGBT Pride March in New York City. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Philip Bockman was 27 at the time of the Stonewall raids, and lived nearby. He took part in the uprising and remembers it vividly.

"I heard gunshots, I heard people screaming, and then I saw people pouring into the streets," Bockman recalled. "It felt like it was our chance to push back."

"Stonewall became this symbol of feeling empowered — of suddenly feeling that all these people were together."

The Stonewall Inn has been a symbolic meeting place for the LGBT community ever since. Earlier this month, thousands gathered outside the Inn to hold a vigil in the aftermath of the Orlando shootings at the Pulse nightclub.

New York State Senator Brad Hoylman and throngs of Americans celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act at the Stonewall Inn in 2013. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

David Carter, the author of Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, has spent the past decade fighting for political recognition of the gay civil rights movement.

"If there had been a monument like this when I was 16-and-a-half years old, my entire life would have been different," Carter said.

"I would have had the validation that my feelings, that my being, was good. [That] there was nothing wrong with it; there was nothing to apologize for; that I could live an honourable life, acting on my feelings."

Listen to our Day 6 documentary to hear David Carter, Lillian Faderman and Philip Bockman reflect on the meaning of the Stonewall Uprisings and how they are remembered, 47 years later.