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Appreciating Another Black Cat

Appreciating Another Black Cat

Black Cat protesters
Black Cat protesters

For #blackcatappreciationday, we remember Los Angeles's Black Cat bar, site of a pre-Stonewall gay rights protest.

Most people participating in #blackcatappreciationday on social media are honoring their favorite felines. But there's a Black Cat that played an important role in launching the modern LGBT rights movement -- and The Advocate.

The Black Cat was a gay bar in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles that became the site of protests against police harassment two and half years before the Stonewall uprising. Just as patrons were celebrating the New Year, 1967, police stormed into the bar, where they beat and handcuffed more than a dozen people. They arrested two men for kissing, and the men had to register as sex offenders. A bartender suffered a ruptured spleen.

Such raids were common at the time, but this time gay Angelenos decided to fight back. They protested in front of the bar for several days, demanding an end to police actions against gay bars and gay citizens. Such actions didn't stop immediately, but a civil rights movement was taking shape.

The raid also led two men, Richard Mitch and Bill Rau, to take over the newsletter of the L.A. gay group Personal Rights in Defense and Education, or PRIDE, which had organized the protests. They decided to develop it into a newsmagazine, The Los Angeles Advocate. The first issue came out in September 1967. The magazine soon expanded into covering news nationally, becoming The Advocate as we know it today.

In 2008 the city of Los Angeles designated the Black Cat site as a Los Angeles Historical-Cultural Monument for its role in the early LGBT rights movement. A plaque at the building details its importance.

The original Black Cat eventually closed, and since then there have been bars under various names at the site, most of them catering to gay customers. But now it's an upscale gastropub, with a general clientele, using the Black Cat name once again.

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