Day 3 – Why Pride Marches?
I’m on tour with the London Gay Men’s Chorus in New York,
getting ready for a joint concert with the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus this
Saturday.

We’ve been to the Stonewall National Monument, close to the
Stonewall Inn. This was the site of the Stonewall rebellion in June 1969, a
turning point in America’s fight for LGBT rights.

When I was growing up, the only significant event in the
summer of 1969 was the first landing on the moon. I was eleven years old, and I
remember watching the contrasty, black and white pictures on our ageing
oak-cased television set.

I knew nothing about the police raid on a sanctuary for gay
men in New York’s Greenwich Village. Police raids on gay bars were frequent in
New York at the time, but the bar owners usually received a police tip-off
before the raid.

On the night of 28 June at the Stonewall Inn, there was no
police tip-off.

And the raid did not go as planned.

Instead of meekly lining up against a wall and handing over
their IDs, patrons refused to cooperate. A crowd gathered outside.

It got angry.

The crowd swelled to five or six hundred, vastly outnumbering
the police.

Ten police officers barricaded themselves inside the
Stonewall Inn for safety.

The crowd chanted, “We shall overcome”. They attacked the
police wagons, and it led to several days of riots in Greenwich Village.

It also triggered a change around the world in the approach
to the campaign for gay rights.

One year later, the first gay Pride march in Greenwich
Village, marked the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. There were also
marches in Chicago and Los Angeles.

These days, people often ask, why bother with Pride marches
any more?

Then you see pictures of gay men rounded up in Chechnya and
forced into concentration camps. You see pictures of gay men thrown from the
roofs of multi-storey car parks in Syria.

Or two gay men in West London earlier this year, savagely
beaten as they slept on their train back home.

That’s why we still have Pride marches.