Today is the 48th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, so to commemorate the event Joe.My.God. posted the complete text of the New York Daily News’ 1969 article about the event, an article that takes a dismissive and mocking tone towards the rebels who kicked off the American LGBTQ rights movement.
Before we go into the article, a little background. Homosexuality during the 1960s was heavily policed. In New York in particular, the city’s Mayor Robert Wagner encouraged police to arrest homosexuals for solicitation (i.e. trying to purchase sex) and “intent to deceive” (cross-dressing).
Police regularly raided gay bars, like the Stonewall bar in Manhattan’s West Village. The popular establishment was mafia-run: the mafia would occasionally blackmail gay patrons who frequented the bar in exchange for hush money (because being outed could get you fired, just like it still can in many U.S. states today). The mob also paid off the police to avoid raids.
Police raided the bar on the night of June 25, 1969 and made everyone to stand in line to check IDs so they could begin arrests. But their raid occurred a little later than usual, when many of the patrons were drunk and rowdy.
After a lesbian (possibly Storm Delarverie) called out “Why don’t you guys do something?” while being arrested for cross-dressing, the crowd went “berserk” and began a riot that resulted in nightly skirmishes with the cops for the next few evenings.
Anyway, the homophobic New York Daily News’ headline from July 6, 1969 read “Homo Nest Raided — Queen Bees are Stinging Mad.” The article has a voyeuristic tone and an endless fascination with men dressed as women (the author repeatedly switches gendered nouns and pronouns when referring to the bar’s male, or female, patrons). These two paragraphs demonstrate the comical nature with which the writer regards the uprising:
The whole proceeding took on the aura of a homosexual Academy Awards Night. The Queens pranced out to the street blowing kisses and waving to the crowd. A beauty of a specimen named Stella wailed uncontrollably while being led to the sidewalk in front of the Stonewall by a cop. She later confessed that she didn’t protest the manhandling by the officer, it was just that her hair was in curlers and she was afraid her new beau might be in the crowd and spot her. She didn’t want him to see her this way, she wept.
The crowd began to get out of hand, eye witnesses said. Then, without warning, Queen Power exploded with all the fury of a gay atomic bomb. Queens, princesses and ladies-in-waiting began hurling anything they could get their polished, manicured fingernails on. Bobby pins, compacts, curlers, lipstick tubes and other femme fatale missiles were flying in the direction of the cops. The war was on. The lilies of the valley had become carnivorous jungle plants.
However, the article takes a rather remarkable shift in tone in its second half when talking to gay patrons of the bar who accuse the cops of being paid off (the police alleged swiped money from the cash register before destroying it) and call the New York Daily News “anti-fag and pro-cop.” The author also interviewed neighbors of the Stonewall who said that its patrons never bothered anyone.
“It was just awful when the police came,” one neighbor said. “It was like a swarm of hornets attacking a bunch of butterflies.”
The entire article is worth reading, not only to get a sense of the mainstream media’s coverage of a landmark queer rights event, but also to grasp how much reporting on LGBTQ rights has changed, drastically and mostly for the better.