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From Our Archives: The 1969 Advocate Article on the Stonewall Riots

The cops got the crowd to let the bus pass, but then the people began a slow-down-the-traffic campaign. A human line across the street blocked traffic, and the cars were let through one at a time. Another car, bearing a fat, gouty-looking cop with many pounds of gilt braid chauffeured by a cute young cop, came through.

The fat cop looked for all the world like a slave-owner surveying the plantation, and someone tossed a sack of wet garbage through the car window and right on his face. The bag broke and soggy coffee grounds dripped down the lined face, which never lost its "screw you" look.

Another police car came through Waverly Place, and stopped at the corner of Christopher. The occupants just sat there and glared at the crowd. Suddenly, a concrete block landed on the hood of the car, and the crowd drew back. Then, as one person, it surged forward and surrounded the car, beating on it with fists and dancing atop it. The cops radioed for help, and soon the crowd let the car pass.

Christopher Street, from Greenwich to Seventh Avenue, had become an almost solid mass of people — most of them gay. No traffic could pass, and even walking the few blocks on foot was next to impossible. One little old lady tried to get through, and many members of the crowd tried to help her. She brushed them away and continued her determined walk, trembling with fear and murmuring, "It must be the full moon, it must be the full moon."

Squad cars from 4th, 5th, 6th, and 9th precincts had brought in a hundred or so cops who had no hope of controlling the crowd of nearly two thousand people in the streets. Until this point, the crowd had been, for the most part, pleasant and in a jovial mood. Some of the cops began to become very nasty and started trouble. One boy, evidently a discus thrower, reacted by bouncing garbage can lids nearly off the helmets of the cops. Others set garbage cans ablaze.

A Christopher Street merchant stood in the door of her shop and yelled at the cops to behave themselves. Whenever they would head in her direction, she'd run into the shop and lock the door.

The focus of the demonstration shifted from the Stonewall to "The Corner" — Greenwich Avenue and Christopher Street. The intersection, and the street behind it, was a solid mass of humanity. The Tactical Police Force (TPF) arrived in city buses. One hundred of them disembarked on The Corner and 50 more at Seventh Avenue and Christopher.

They huddled with some of the top brass that had already arrived, and isolated beer cans, thrown by the crowd, hit their van and cars now and again. Suddenly, two cops darted into the crowd and dragged out a boy who had done absolutely nothing. As they carried him to a waiting van brought to take off prisoners, four more cops joined them and began pounding the boy in the face, belly, and groin with night sticks. A high shrill voice called out, "Save our sister!" and there was a general pause, during which the "butch"-looking "numbers" looked distracted.

Momentarily, 50 or more homosexuals who would have been described as "nelly" rushed the cops and took the boy back into the crowd. They then formed a solid front and refused to let the cops into the crowd to regain their prisoner, letting the cops hit them with their sticks, rather than let them through.

It was an interesting side-light on the demonstrations that those usually put down as "sissies" or "swishes" showed the most courage and sense during the action. Their bravery and daring saved many people from being hurt, and their sense of humor and "camp" helped keep the crowds from getting too nasty or too violent.

The cops gave up on the idea of taking prisoners and concentrated on clearing the area. They rushed both ways on Greenwich, forcing the crowds into 10th Street and 6th Avenue, where the cops formed a flying wedge and, with arms linked, headed down Greenwich, forcing everyone in front of them into side streets. Cops on the ends of the wedge broke off and chased demonstrators down the side streets and away from the center of the action.


Tags: News, Stonewall

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