On this day, 53 years ago in the early morning, “Public Morals Squad” officers waited outside a small bar in the New York City neighborhood of Greenwich Village. The roughly 200 patrons inside were doing what most folks do at bars, drinking, dancing, and trying to have a good time. It wasn’t a nice bar. It didn’t have running water behind the bar, it was owned by the mafia, and the patrons were all criminalized by the society at the time. It was, however, a place where these folks could be themselves, if only for a few hours.
What followed is, as they say, history. The subsequent police raid and eventual violent uprising would go on to be memorialized to this day as one of the sparks that ignited the modern queer rights movement. For years now, we’ve used this day to look back and comment on how far we’ve come, but this year it feels like we’ve never been so close to returning to that time as a society.
A society that treats drag performers as dangers to children and the public. A society that treats queer people as existential threats to society and tries to legislate away our rights to healthcare. A society that looks once again to criminalizing our love, our bodies, and our existence.
Having pride in this climate is hard. It’s easy to feel demoralized when everything we’ve fought for over decades seems so fragile – so close to disappearing. It’s times like these we need to remember Stormé DeLarverie, standing handcuffed in police custody outside the Stonewall Inn in the early morning all those years ago.
“Why don’t you guys do something?” she shouted at the bystanders.
She was under attack, and together with her queer community they demanded their rights and stood up to a society that saw them as less than, deviant, and immoral. For days they rioted in the streets throwing bottles and dropping bricks through windshields of police cars. They marched in the streets. They confronted oppression where it lived and made themselves unavoidable.
It’s that activism that lives at the core of who we are as Greens. When the climate is threatened and the duopoly is standing by impotent, we’re shouting “Why don’t you guys do something!?” When our black and brown siblings are victimized by police violence, we are marching in the streets shouting, “Why don’t you guys do something!?” When queer rights are threatened we confront those enabling it and set forth our vision for a more just society.
The Green Party of the United States has centered LGBTQIA+ rights since its inception. It has stood arm in arm with the oppressed across this country and demanded justice. On this anniversary, we ask you to continue that fight with us in any way you can, whether that is with your activism, your time, or your generous donation.
Our mission has never been more important, and your support has never been so needed.
Daniel Bumbarger & Margaret Elisabeth
National Lavender Green Caucus Co-Chairs
Coordinating Council, Green Party of Washington State