Books

Rebel Yells

by

On a moonlit Friday night 35 years ago, as the patrons of the Stonewall Inn were enjoying drinks, music, and not a little camp, a group of detectives and patrolmen stormed in for a shakedown. The cops would usually threaten the gay clientele with public exposure and arrest a few cross-dressers. But on June 27, 1969, as Voice writer Lucian Truscott IV immortalized, “Limp wrists were forgotten,” as the crowd pelted police with coins. Protesters moved on to cobblestones and beer bottles when cops barricaded themselves inside the bar, and the same clientele that had greeted the officers with “Hello there, fella” smashed Stonewall’s windows, rammed the door with an uprooted parking meter, and set the place on fire. For the next two evenings, protesters and police clashed in Sheridan Square, ushering in the era of gay empowerment. Allen Ginsberg best encapsulated the watershed moment in a post-protest comment to Truscott: “You know, the guys there were so beautiful—they’ve lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago.”