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What are the Stonewall riots? How a gay bar raid started an uprising and LGBTQ2 Pride – National

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What are the Stonewall riots How a gay bar raid started an uprising and LGBTQ2 Pride National

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Summer is coming and with its arrival will come weekend after weekend of rainbow-laden celebrations of diversity and equality. It’s the start of Pride season for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit community.

It’s not just because June brings nicer weather for parades; it’s when one of the most important moments in LGBTQ2 rights history took place.


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Fifty years ago, in the early hours of June 28, 1969, the patrons of New York City’s Stonewall Inn fought back against a police crackdown at one of the few places where they could truly be themselves, at a time when homosexuality was illegal in every state except Illinois.

The Stonewall Inn wasn’t glamorous. It was run by the mob and it didn’t have a proper liquor licence, like most gay bars in those days, which made it a popular target for police to raid and collect payoffs and extort bribes from the bar and its customers.

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The police would often tip off the bar staff as to when they would come knocking, but not that night.

“I was inside Stonewall. Just doing what you normally did, talking with your friends, and all of a sudden the lights blinked on and off,” says Mark Segal, who was at the Stonewall that night. “I said to somebody, ‘What’s going on?’ And they said, ‘Oh, it’s a raid,’ very nonchalantly.”

Segal was 18 years old at the time and had just moved to New York from Philadelphia. He saw the Stonewall as a place where a young man like him didn’t have to worry about holding hands, kissing or dancing with someone of the same sex.

Mark Segal at a gay rights rally in New York in 1970. This photo by Diana Davies is a part of the New York Public Library’s “Love & Resistance: Stonewall 50” exhibit.

Diana Davies/The New York Public Library

“I had never been in something like a raid before,” said Segal, who is now the founder and publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News.

“I still looked like the boy next door. So when the cops came in, the only thing they were interested in doing was extorting money from the older guys and pushing the stereotypical people around. People like me were of no use to them. So I was one of the first to be carded and let out of the bar.”

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The Stonewall was also a safe haven for transgender people, drag queens and other people who broke gender norms. People could be arrested at that time and charged with “sexual deviancy” for wearing fewer than three items of clothing from one’s own gender.

While the police harassed and tried to arrest people still inside the bar, Segal was among the crowd gathering on the street.

Beginning of a movement

“A semi-circle formed around the front of the door and eventually had the situation where there were more people outside than inside,” Segal recalls. “And the only people inside at that point happened to be the employees of the bar and the police and the semi-circle wasn’t moving.”

Segal says police soon realized they were in a situation where they were surrounded by the very people they had been intimidating.

“One of them opened the door and tried to say something like, ‘Get away from here, you fairies,’ or something, and someone threw something,” he says. “That’s how it began.”

But that isn’t how it ended.

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The crowd fought back that night and for three more nights. Segal and one of his friends, Marty Donovan, wrote on the walls of the buildings lining Christopher Street, where the Stonewall Inn was located in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood, encouraging people to return night after night.

And from that, Segal says, a gay rights movement was born.

“From the ashes of Stonewall came Gay Liberation Front,” he says. “Gay Liberation Front probably is the most important LGBT organization that ever existed.”

It was a united front — a collection of various activist groups that formed as a result of what happened at the Stonewall.


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“We ended invisibility. We took back our streets. And if all of that weren’t enough, we created the world’s first gay community centre and then, on the first anniversary, we created gay pride.”

It was known as Christopher Street Liberation Day. But over time, other cities held their own marches and rallies. Eventually, it became what we now know as Pride.

All of this unfolded at a time when there weren’t any cellphones to capture the excitement in real time. Images from the uprising and the early days of the Gay Liberation Front are rare. But photographer Diana Davies was one of the few who did document this era. Her work is now a part of a collection presented by The New York Public Library called “Love & Resistance: Stonewall 50.”

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Correcting history

Segal says there are a lot of different stories out there as to how the riot unfolded — “It was a riot. It wasn’t organized,” he says — who threw something first, and why it was that night the men and women from the Stonewall had had enough.

There’s one particular story Segal has heard enough of: the Judy Garland story.

The famed singer-actress is very much considered a gay icon, even today.


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Garland died of an accidental drug overdose on June 22, 1969. Her funeral drew thousands of mourners to the streets of New York five days later — just hours before the police would show up at the Stonewall.

It’s been said many times — including in the 1995 film Stonewall and in a 2018 episode of the popular competition series RuPaul’s Drag Race — that drag queens at the Stonewall Inn that night, already grieving Garland’s death, were emboldened to rise up against the police.

“There were, in the 1960s, were riots of various types. There were race riots. There were riots because of the Vietnam War,” says Segal. “And our riot was included in that. Our riot is the only one that was sparked by a songstress? That’s belittling us. That’s really belittling us. Anyone who repeats this should be ashamed of themselves.”

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Left out of history

One story that hasn’t been gotten enough attention over the five decades since Stonewall is that of transgender people of colour in the LGBTQ2 rights revolution.

There was a “whitewashing of the trans community and of trans people of colour from the story,” says Marisa Richmond, a history and gender studies professor at Middle Tennessee State University. “We’ve been trying to reclaim our role in the community and in the movement.”

Activists Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson (left) at a gay rights rally in New York in 1973. This photo by Diana Davies is a part of the New York Public Library’s “Love & Resistance: Stonewall 50” exhibit.

Diana Davies/The New York Public Library

You can’t tell the story of Stonewall and Pride without talking about people like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.


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They are said to have been a force to be reckoned with during the days of the Stonewall riots — and most certainly in the movement that followed.

“What we’ve heard is that if they were not the first [they were] among the very first to start throwing things and fighting back, deciding they had nothing to lose,” says Richmond.

As the gay liberation movement grew, Johnson and Rivera, who were both sex workers, founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR).

STAR was a part of the Gay Liberation Front, but some other organizations didn’t want trans women like Johnson and Rivera anywhere near the emerging movement — even at Christopher Street Liberation Day one year after the riots.

“There was a lot of hostility toward trans inclusion in Pride for a long, long time,” says Richmond. “There was this claim, and it’s still out there in some circles, that trans people are hurting the community.”

That didn’t hold Johnson and Rivera back.

“They were determined and many others in New York, and around the country, were inspired by their bravery and their courage,” Richmond adds, explaining how their fight inspired the formation of other trans rights organizations across the U.S. and around the world.


nick.logan@globalnews.ca

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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FOREIGN NEWS

Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA

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Harris accepts VP nomination

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Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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