The Stonewall riots (also referred to as the Stonewall uprising or the Stonewall
rebellion) were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the
gay (LGBT) community against a police raid that took place in the early morning
hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village
neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City.
They are widely considered to constitute the most important event leading to the
gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.
Gay Americans in the 1950s and 1960s faced an anti-gay legal system. Early homophile groups
in the U.S. sought to prove that gay people could be assimilated into society, and they favored
non-confrontational education for homosexuals and heterosexuals alike. The last years of the
1960s, however, were very contentious, as many social/political movements were active,
including the Civil Rights Movement, the counterculture of the 1960s, and the anti-Vietnam War
movement. These influences, along with the liberal environment of Greenwich Village, served
as catalysts for the Stonewall riots.
Very few establishments welcomed openly gay people in the 1950s and 1960s. Those that did
were often bars, although bar owners and managers were rarely gay. At the time, the Stonewall
Inn was owned by the Mafia. It catered to an assortment of patrons and was known to be
popular among the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens,
transgender people, effeminate young men, butch lesbians, male prostitutes, and homeless
youth. Police raids
on gay bars were routine in the 1960s, but officers quickly lost control of the situation at the
Stonewall Inn. They attracted a crowd that was incited to riot. Tensions between New York City
police and gay residents of Greenwich Village erupted into more protests the next evening, and
again several nights later. Within weeks, Village residents quickly organized into activist groups
to concentrate efforts on establishing places for gays and lesbians to be open about their
sexual orientation without fear of being arrested.
After the Stonewall riots, gays and lesbians in New York City faced gender, race, class, and
generational obstacles to becoming a cohesive community. Within six months, two gay activist
organizations were formed in New York, concentrating on confrontational tactics, and three
newspapers were established to promote rights for gays and lesbians. Within a few years, gay
rights organizations were founded across the U.S. and the world. On June 28, 1970, the first gay
pride marches took place in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago
commemorating the anniversary of the riots. Similar marches were organized in other cities.
Today, Gay Pride events are held annually throughout the world toward the end of June to mark
the Stonewall riots. The Stonewall National Monument was established at the site in 2016.
One of the first openly gay officials in the United States in 1977 when he was elected to the San
Francisco Board of Supervisors. Tragically, he was killed the following year.
Born on May 22, 1930, in Woodmere, New York and reared in a small middle-class Jewish family,
Milk was one of two boys born to William and Minerva Milk. A well-rounded, well-liked student, Milk
played football and sang in the opera at Bay Shore High School. Like his brother, Robert, he also
worked at the family department store, Milk's.
After graduating from the New York State College for Teachers in 1951, Milk joined the U.S. Navy,
ultimately serving as a diving instructor at a base in San Diego, California, during the Korean War.
Following his discharge in 1955, Milk moved to New York City, where he worked a variety of jobs,
including public school teacher, production associate for several high-profile Broadway musicals,
stock analyst and Wall Street investment banker. He soon tired of finance, though, and befriended
gay radicals who frequented Greenwich Village.
In late 1972, bored with his life in New York, Milk moved to San Francisco, California. There, he
opened a camera shop called Castro Camera on Castro Street, putting his life and work right in the
heart of the city's gay community.
For much of his life, Milk had stayed quiet about his personal life, but in San Francisco, his life and
outspoken politics evolved . As Castro Camera increasingly became a neighborhood center, Milk
found his voice as a leader and activist. In 1973, he declared his candidacy for a position on the San
Francisco Board of Supervisors. A novice politician with little money, Milk lost the election, but the
experience did not deter him from trying again. Two years later, he narrowly lost a second election for
the same seat. By then, Milk had become a political force—an outspoken leader in the gay
community with political connections that included San Francisco mayor George Moscone, Assembly
speaker and future city mayor Willie Brown and future United States senator Dianne Feinstein.
In 1977, Milk, who was known affectionately as the "Mayor of Castro Street," finally won a seat on the
San Francisco City-County Board. He was inaugurated on January 9, 1978, becoming the city's first
openly gay officer, as well as one of the first openly gay individuals to be elected to office in the United
While his campaign certainly incorporated gay rights into his platform, Milk also wanted to tackle a
wide variety of issues, from child care to housing to a civilian police review board.
Milk's ascension had come at an important time for the gay community. While many psychiatrists still
considered homosexuality a mental illness at this time, the liberal Moscone had become an early
supporter of gay rights and had abolished the city's anti-sodomy law. Moscone had also appointed
several gays and lesbians to a number of high-profile positions within San Francisco.
On the other side of Moscone was Supervisor Dan White, a Vietnam veteran and former police officer
and fireman, who was troubled by what he perceived as a breakdown in traditional values and a
growing tolerance of homosexuality. Elected to the San Francisco City-County Board in 1977, he
frequently clashed with the more liberal Milk on policy issues.
A year after his election, in 1978, White resigned from the board, citing that his salary of $9,600 wasn't
enough to support his family. But White was prodded on by his police supporters and subsequently
changed his mind regarding his resignation and asked Moscone to reappoint him. The mayor
refused, however, encouraged by Milk and others to fill White's spot with a more liberal board
member. For White, who was convinced that men like Moscone and Milk were driving his city
"downhill," it was a devastating blow.
On November 27, 1978, White entered City Hall with a loaded .38 revolver. He avoided the metal
detectors by entering through a basement window that had been negligently left open for ventilation.
His first stop was at the mayor's office, where he and Moscone begun arguing, eventually moving to a
private room so that they could not be heard. Once there, Moscone again refused to re-appoint White,
and White shot the mayor twice in the chest and twice in the head. White then went down the corridor
and shot Milk, twice in the chest, once in the back and twice again in the head. Soon after, he turned
himself in at the police station where he used to work.
Dan White's Trial
White's trial was marked by what came to be known
as the "Twinkie defense," as his lawyers claimed that
the normally stable White had grown slovenly prior to
the shootings due to abandoning his usually healthy
diet and instead indulging in sugary junk food such
as Coke, doughnuts and Twinkies. In a surprising
move, a jury convicted White of voluntary
manslaughter rather than murder, and White would
subsequently serve just six years in prison. In 1985,
a year after his release, a distressed White committed
As a result of White's downgraded conviction,
peaceful demonstrations by Castro's gay community
outside City Hall turned violent. More than 5,000
policemen responded by entering nightclubs armed
with truncheons and assaulting patrons. By the riot's
end, 124 people were injured, including 59 policemen.
This episode is known in history as "The White Night
In the years since the killings, Milk's legacy as a leader
and pioneer has endured, with numerous books and
films made about his life. In 2008, Sean Penn starred
as Milk in the acclaimed biopic Milk. Penn ended up
winning the 2009 Academy Award for best actor for his
portrayal of the slain politician.
U.S. Navy Ship
In July 2016 the U.S. Navy announced it would be naming a yet-to-be constructed tanker after Milk in
his honor. The ship would be called the USNS Harvey Milk.
Milk's nephew praised the decision, saying it would send "a green light to all the brave men and
women who serve our nation: that honesty and authenticity are held up among the highest ideals of
of nation's military".
San Francisco politician Scott Wiener also celebrated the announcement. "When Harvey Milk served
in the military, he couldn't tell anyone who he truly was," he wrote in a statement. "Now our country is
telling the men and women who serve, and the entire world, that we honor and support people for
who they are."
However, some critics argue that Milk would not have wanted such an honor, citing Milk was opposed
to the Vietnam War.
UNITY COALITION|COALICION UNIDA is the First & Only organization for the So. Fla. Latinx|Hispanic|LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) Community - advancing
Equality and Fairness through Education, Leadership & Awareness since 2002.
UNITY COALITION|COALICION UNIDA es la Primera y Unica organización en el sur de la Florida para la comunidad latinx|hispanx LGBT (lesbianas, gay,bisexual, transgénero)-
avanzando Igualdad, Liderazgo y Conciencia desde el 2002.