“Who threw the brick?”

An insight into the Stonewall Uprising of 1969 in the LGBT rights movement- its impact and who really threw the first brick?

If you are in touch with the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) rights movements, this is an infamous question. Let’s take a moment today to understand the history behind this question.


(Source-https://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/09/23/stonewall031438377052_wide-81a620c0e2f56db645418d679455fceedf4497a2.jpg)

In the United States, the first documented gay rights organization- The Society for Human Rights started in 1924. However, much of modern day gay civil rights are cited towards the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. The Stonewall Riots broke out during the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 when New York Police Department’s- Public Moral Squad raided the Stonewall Inn. Stonewall Inn was an American mafia owned gay bar. While raids at gay bars were common before the 1960’s and the times preceding, this time the gay community was determined to stand up for their rights– bold and strong.

Patrons of the bar were arrested, roughed up and kicked out of the bar. Patrons started picking anything they could find on the streets and threw them at the bar. Hundreds of people joined this protest- patrons of the bar and residents in the neighborhood. The police in the bar barricaded themselves, which was repeatedly removed by the protestors and the bar was eventually set on fire. The fire department and riot squad were able to douse the fire and disperse the crowd in time. This anger and frustration did not stop here. This led to a national movement within the US for the next five days, as protestors around the Greenwich Village gathered to fight for their rights. The incident at the Stonewall Inn was the turning point LGBT political activism and led to the formation of several gay rights organizations, including the Gay Liberation Front, Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD (formerly Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), and PFLAG (formerly Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).

In 2016, then-President Barack Obama designated Stonewall Inn and the surrounding areas- a national monument recognizing the area’s contribution to gay rights. Not until 2019, 50 years after Stonewall, New York Commissioner James O’Neill expressed a public apology for the department’s raid in 1969.

Question still remains- who threw the first brick, that started the Stonewall Riots?

Some do credit trans women of color- Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera as the ones who likely threw the brick, but the truth is no one really knows. There hasn’t been a formal acceptance by any of the protestors on who threw the brick that started the historic Stonewall uprising.

(Source- https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-LGBT-STONEWALL/010092NF3GR/images/top.jpg)

Movements like the Stonewall uprising have been channeled across the globe and have created a deep impact around the world for a community to be recognized, but even today we are still far from giving equal rights to individuals who identify themselves as a member of the LGBTQ community.

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