By Dale Henry Geist, Editor
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the usual crowd of queers and misfits were drinking away their troubles together in a little club in Greenwich Village, NY. It was a dimly-lit, peaceful refuge from a world that wanted nothing to do with them and seemed ready to do just about anything to rid itself of them. The joint was called the Stonewall Inn.
Then the cops busted in. The threat of police brutality had been a constant for decades wherever gays gathered. But the drag queens, leather boys, dykes, and runaways didn’t take it lying down this time. As police hauled employees and patrons out of the bar, they fought back, and they were soon joined by neighborhood residents. It was just the beginning of six days of protests and violent clashes with the police that spilled past the bar, down Christopher St., into neighboring streets and into Christopher Park.
The Stonewall Riots made headlines, and, like the civil rights protests before them, the images of defenseless queer folks fighting for simple human rights and dignity made an impression on the public and galvanized the Gay Liberation movement. The next year at that time, a parade was thrown at the scene of the riots, and that parade evolved to become the LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations across America that we treasure today.
In 2016, then-President Barack Obama designated the site of the riots a national monument.
Paisley Fields, one of today’s leading lights of queer country music, talks about what Stonewall means to them: “Stonewall is Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera. Countless marginalized people. My first Pride March. Celebrations with friends. Grieving the losses and heartbreak we’ve gone through. Stonewall is a cornerstone of our community. It’s a place to gather, to grieve, to celebrate; a place of congregation. The night after the Pulse massacre in Orlando I stopped by Stonewall and paid my respects to those who were killed that night. My husband and I went back for the vigil the next day. Stonewall is a reminder that queer people exist outside of Pride Month. It’s a sacred place, a place I believe holds significant meaning to all queer people.”
We’re proud to bring you this exclusive premiere of Paisley Fields playing their song “Ramblin’ Ranger” in front of the historic Stonewall Inn, recorded just last week. Here they are, with fiddler Reilley Vegh, at Ground Zero of the movement to secure for LGBTQ+ folks full membership in the human community.