Revisiting the Black Cat
For the gay patrons of the Black Cat tavern in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, it was a disheartening start to 1967. As balloons dropped from the ceiling to mark the New Year, undercover cops ripped Christmas decorations from the walls, brandished guns, then beat and cuffed 14 people. Two men arrested for kissing were later forced to register as sex offenders; one bartender suffered a ruptured spleen. Violent police raids on queer bars weren't uncommon in the '60s, but this time the gays didn't let it slide. Weeks after the arrests, protesters stood for days in front of the Black Cat, demanding an end to LAPD intimidation, humiliation, and brutality. The actions at the Black Cat, now a Los Angeles historic-cultural monument, galvanized Richard Mitch and partner Bill Rau. They took over the newsletter of a local gay rights organization called PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education) and turned it into a small newsmagazine, which they renamed The Los Angeles Advocate. The first issue was dated September 1967. Two years later The Advocate reported on the Stonewall riots in New York City.
As we celebrate 45 years of The Advocate's history, we look both inward, to our long record of reporting on the struggle for LGBT rights, and outward, to a new generation of activists carrying the torch for equality. This original photo of the protests (participants' names and photographer unknown) has been re-created by Bradford Rogne and features activists (opposite, from left) James Duke Mason, 19, founder of the Trailblazer Campaign; Eileen Ma, 40, executive director of API Equality L.A.; and Jake Finney, 40, Anti-Violence Project manager for the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center and organizer of Trans Pride in Los Angeles.