The announcement at noon Friday concluded years of efforts to recognize the historic legacy of the still-operating bar, where on June 28, 1969, eight New York City police officers executed a raid of the gay hangout. The crime? Stonewall sold drinks containing alcohol to homosexuals.
“The designation will create the first official National Park Service unit dedicated to telling the story of LGBT Americans, just days before the one year anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision guaranteeing marriage equality in all 50 states,” the White House said in a statement. Sunday is the one year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality.
The White House said it’s not just the bar that’s being dedicated, according to the statement:
“The new Stonewall National Monument will permanently protect Christopher Park, a historic community park at the intersection of Christopher Street, West 4th Street and Grove Street directly across from the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. The monument’s boundary encompasses approximately 7.7 acres of land, including Christopher Park, the Stonewall Inn, and the surrounding streets and sidewalks that were the site of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising.”
Early that morning in 1969, a crowd started to gather outside the Stonewall, angry at the ongoing harassment and brutal treatment of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, drag queens and those who identified as a gender different from their assignment at birth. Today we call those individuals transgender.
According to the inn’s website, the clubbing of a lesbian who complained her handcuffs were too tight was the last straw and the crowd took action, hurling bottles, bricks and overturning police vehicles, forcing the officers to retreat to the bar where they barricaded themselves until reinforcements arrived.
“The Stonewall National Monument will pay tribute to the brave individuals who stood up to oppression and helped ignite a fire in a movement to end unfair and unjust discrimination against LGBTQ people,” said HRC President Chad Griffin in a statement.
When NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton announced safety precautions for the weekend Pride festivities in New York City, he was asked if he’d be issuing an apology to the LGBTQ community for the Stonewall raid, as the chief of police in Toronto did this week for bath house raids in his city.
“There’s no doubt denying that out of that terrible experience came so much good, that it was the tipping point,” Bratton said, according to The Observer. “An apology, I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s necessary. The apology is all that’s occurred since then.”
Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who spearheaded the campaign to dedicate Stonewall as a national monument, issued a statement applauding the president’s announcement. He was joined by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYS Senator Brad Hoylman, NYS Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Councilmember Corey Johnson, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer among others.
And the dedication is only just the beginning:
Obama’s dedication Friday referenced his 2013 Inaugural Address, in which he named Stonewall among the turning points of history:
“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began.”
The statement said a special video will celebrate this dedication:
“The White House, in coordination with the National Park Foundation and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, is releasing a video that will be played on the billboards in Times Square on Saturday, June 25, beginning at 12:00pm ET.”