On June 28 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a small, dingy "private club" in Greenwich Village with a clientele of mainly lesbians, gay men and drag artists. It was the second time that week that the bar had been targeted by police (the charge was the illegal sale of alcohol), and other gay bars had also been raided in prior weeks. Police officers announced that the employees would be arrested and lined up the Stonewall Inn's patrons to check identification.
As people were ejected from the bar, a crowd began to form outside, joined by passers-by. Many eyewitnesses recalled that the scene outside the bar was initially passive and quite light hearted. The first police van left without incident.
However the next person to emerge from the bar put up a struggle when police attempted to violently load her into a waiting van. The atmosphere quickly changed from passivity to defiance. The crowd erupted and began hurling stones and bottles at the bar. Some of the police officers retreated inside the bar, whilst others turned a fire-hose on the growing crowd of protestors. Police reinforcements were called and the streets were cleared.
During the day, news spread of the previous night's incidents and this led to further violent confrontations between police and protestors.
Whilst the Stonewall Rebellion was arguably a spontaneous act of resistance against police harassment, the 60s were a time of turbulent political and social change. Many excluded groups were taking a co-ordinated and decisive stand against oppression. The Stonewall Rebellion sparked new, highly visible LGBT civil rights movements across America and Europe.
In the UK various lesbian, gay and bisexual groups, organisations, clubs and bars use the name 'Stonewall'. For example, in the UK alone there is the Stonewall organisation, Stonewall Housing Association, Stonewall Football Club, and The Stonewall Bar.
For more information about the Stonewall Rebellion click here to go to the online edition of the Columbia University exhibition held from May 25 to September 17, 1994 in conjunction with the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.