What the Queer Uprisings of 1969 Share with the George Floyd Protests of 2020
CrimethInc. June 28, 2020
“Stonewall was a riot.” In the 51 years since the uprising at the Stonewall Inn in New York City catapulted the movement for LGBTQ+ liberation into public consciousness, this phrase has become a cliché. Yes, it was a riot—but what kind of riot was it? On the anniversary of the iconic queer rebellion, many of us are reflecting on how today’s struggles against police and white supremacy connect to past uprisings. Let’s look at the resonances between Stonewall and the Justice for George Floyd rebellions and what these show us about how to catalyze resistance to oppression.
So what kind of riot was Stonewall?
Stonewall was a violent anti-police riot. It was a riot in which furious queers attempted to injure police officers and set them on fire in the course of fighting to hold territory in the street. It was not a dignified, militant, organized expression of the “language of the unheard.” It was a violent, chaotic blast of rage against the institution responsible for inflicting so much cruelty and misery upon queer people in the city.
On the first night of the riots, at least four NYPD cops were injured, according to their own records. Protesters lit fires in trash cans, painted graffiti, hurled bricks and bottles at police, threw garbage in the streets, and destroyed a parking meter. To every “peaceful protester” today: if you insist that violent protest is always counter-productive, queer history is not on your side.