Last summer, I spent my June driving through Nashville as American flags wavered in the Tennessee sun. However, in June of 1969 there was a different flag wavering.
In 2009, Obama officially declared June as National LGBT Pride Month. This commemorated the Stonewall riots that became a turning point for the gay rights movement. It all began 1:20 am June 28, 1969 when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar on Christopher Street in Manhattan.
The bar had been illegally serving alcohol after being denied a liquor license. At the time the N.Y. State Liquor Authority did not hand out licenses to establishments serving gay customers. As a result, the New York Police Department entered the bar with a search warrant, arresting the respective bar goers.
As the arrestees stood handcuffed outside the bar, mobs of people began to swarm the site. In the commotion, an officer hit one of the handcuffed women on the head. The surrounding crowd fired back, throwing spare change and other on-hand objects at the officers.
Ten officers rushed into the Stonewall Inn seaking protection. Shortly after, the riot set the bar on fire. Eventually backup arrived, saving the officers and taming the fire but the chaos had only begun. Over the next 3 days hundreds gathered in New York, rioting in support of the LGBT community.
Representatives from organizations like the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance organized peaceful protests and united with political leaders in a spirited demand for justice. A year later, Brenda Howard, a New York activist, organized the first Pride parade.
Obama’s 2009 declaration of Pride month rallied thousands of people to “eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people” (Obama’s 2016 Presidential Proclamation).
The Stonewall riots gave America a chance to show who they are in the face of injustice and despite their differences their ability to remain the “indivisible home of the brave.”
In the words of Obama,“during Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, as Americans wave their flags of pride high and march boldly forward in parades and demonstrations, let us celebrate how far we have come and reaffirm our steadfast belief in the equal dignity of all Americans.”