The Atlantic
January 24, 2013
When President Obama briefly mentioned Stonewall during his Inaugural address, it prompted a lot of chatter about of the Stonewall riot and his historic adoption of the gay rights cause as his own. But what happened at the Stonewall Inn, really? New York papers tend to call it the Stonewall uprising, not the Stonewall riot, because it played out as six days of skirmishes between young gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals and the New York Police Department in the wake of a police raid of the Christopher Street bar in Manhattan's West Village. The raid came amid a broader police crackdown on gay bars for operating without N. Y. State Liquor Authority licenses, which was something they did only because the SLA refused to grant bars that served gays licenses, forcing them to operate as illegal saloons. Into that void stepped opportunists and Mafia affiliates, who ran the unlicensed establishments and reputedly had deals with the police to stay in business. But on the night of June 27, 1969, a police raid on the Stonewall involving the arrests of 13 people inside the bar met unexpected resistance when a crowd gathered and one of those arrested, a woman, cried out to the assembled bystanders as she was shoved into a paddy wagon, "Why don't you guys do something!"