What were the Stonewall riots? The story of the historic demonstrations

Stonewall Riots: Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson

The Stonewall riots were a crucial, era-defining moment in the struggle for equality.

In the early hours of June 28 1969, a gay bar in the West Village of Manhattan became the epicentre of an event that changed the course of LGBT history.

The days of riots which followed the uprising against police who frequently targeted The Stonewall Inn along with other gay bars were momentous.

Led by prominent activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who were trans women of colour, the riots sparked an entire civil rights movement, and the reason why we celebrate Pride Month in June.

Rivera and Johnson also later co-founded the organization STAR, or Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, a group dedicated to helping homeless young drag queens and trans women of colour.

Johnson was known for her fierce activism and advocacy of homeless queer people and sex workers, as well as saying the ‘P.’ in her name stood for “pay it no mind” – now the title of a documentary about her life.

Johnson was one of the first to resist police intimidation at the bar, and Rivera is rumoured to have thrown the first bottle.

Then, when lesbian activist Stormé DeLarverie was attacked by police for saying her handcuffs were too tight, the riot broke out.

How did the Stonewall riots start?

On June 28 1969, the police stopped by The Stonewall Inn on the grounds of checking for alcohol law violations and other transgressions – something they did frequently.

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