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These coordinated marches in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago in 1970 were the first gay pride parades, and sparked an idea that spread around the country—to 116 cities in the United States and 30 countries around the world.It was this national act of commemoration that represented a truly new political phenomenon, not the riot itself.
The question that scholars are seeking to answer is: Why not?
an annual demonstration for gay civil rights before Stonewall, however, and it provides the best example of how gay politics were growing and changing before the riots.
Subsequent demonstrations were subsumed by the Stonewall commemorations.
Activists were busy on the East Coast before Stonewall, too. C., LGBTQ veterans chose the Pentagon as their place to picket, making it onto national television with signs reading, “Homosexual citizens want to serve their country too.” Subsequent demonstrations targeted the White House and the offices of Federal agencies.
In 1966, again in San Francisco, LGBTQ people rioted at Compton’s Cafeteria, smashing all the windows of a police car, setting fires, and picketing the restaurant for its collusion with police. Bar raids in late-1960s Los Angeles also prompted resistance.
The city’s gay establishment did not participate, however, and distanced themselves from the transgender and street youths and their political organization, Vanguard, behind the “violent” protest. The 1967 police raid on the Black Cat bar, for instance, led to a demonstration 400 people strong that garnered evening news coverage.New York City’s Mattachine Society secured legal gains in 1966 when they organized a “sip-in” at the bar Julius’, securing the right of homosexuals to gather in public.None of these actions inspired commemoration, locally or in other cities, however, leading scholars to look for pre-Stonewall protests.Interestingly, San Francisco’s activists declined to participate because they had already made inroads with local politicians and clergy.As one member explained, “I did not think a riot should be memorialized.” Only a small breakaway group participated, to little local effect, in a city that today hosts one of the largest gay pride parades in the country.It was not the first rebellion, but it was the first to be called “the first,” and that act of naming mattered.Those nationally coordinated activist commemorations were evidence of an LGBTQ movement that had rapidly grown in strength during the 1960s, not a movement sparked by a single riot. Crage detail four previous police raids on gay bars in cities across the United States that prompted activist responses—and local gains—but that either faded from local memory, did not inspire commemorations that lasted, or did not motivate activists in other cities.But there were gay activists before that early morning of June 28, 1969, previous rebellions of LGBTQ people against police, earlier calls for “gay power,” and earlier riots.What was different about Stonewall was that gay activists around the country were prepared to commemorate it publicly.In fact it is conventional to date LGBTQ history into “before Stonewall” and “after Stonewall” periods—not just in the United States, but in Europe as well.British activists can join Stonewall UK, for example, while pride parades in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland are called “Christopher Street Day,” after the street in New York City on which the Stonewall Inn still sits.