by Barbara Nevins Taylor
People began celebrating gay pride in the Village early on Sunday. They didn’t wait for the official parade to kick off at 36th Street and Fifth Avenue.
They let the parade come to them as it headed downtown and wound its way through the streets bounded by barricades, police officers and garbage trucks strategically placed for security.
The route took marchers past the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, the historic heart of the gay liberation movement.
That’s where gay pride first went public.
In the late 1967 Tony Lauria, connected to the Genovese crime family and reportedly working under Matty “The Horse” Ianniello, bought the Stonewall.
He turned it into a gay nightclub that attracted drag queens and young people from the suburbs who came to dance and drink. The club had no liquor license because the New York State Liquor Authority refused to grant licenses to gay bars. So the Mafia stepped in and ran the illegal bars that catered to gay people. The NYPD Morals Squad made regular raids and arrested workers and patrons.
On June 28, 1969, during a raid, police hauled people out of the Stonewall into waiting paddy wagons. About 200 people on the street gathered to watch as young gay men vamped as they went into the vans. A woman under arrest and forced into one of the vans reportedly yelled to the crowd, “Why don’t you guys do something?”
The crowd responded. First they threw coins at the police, according to an account by Lucian K. Truscott, IV, then a reporter for the New York Times. He was drinking at the Lion’s Head nearby and came out when he heard the commotion. He said the crowd then started throwing bottles and escalated to heaving cobblestones through the window of the bar after frightened officers retreated inside to await reinforcements.
The chief of the Morals Squad, Seymour Pine, said that he raided the Stonewall to stop illegal liquor sales and to break up a Mafia blackmail ring that targeted gay Wall Streeters.
Nevertheless, the early morning riot led to six days of protests outside the Stonewall and marked the beginning of the gay civil rights movement.
In 2016, President Barack Obama named the Stonewall Inn a National Historic Landmark to honor its place in the fight for civil rights for all.
The Stonewall Inn and the park across the street now attract tourists from around the world.