Shadyside event to remember Stonewall raid that started gay rights movement
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pittsburghers on Friday will mark the 50th anniversary of a police raid on a bar in New York’s Greenwich Village that ignited a riot and launched the modern gay rights movement.
The event Friday will be held at the intersection of Ellsworth and Maryland avenues in Shadyside, a long popular LGBT nightlife spot, the location of some of Pittsburgh’s first Pride marches and where the city celebrated marriage equality in 2015.
A recently completed mural by Leonardo Moleiro, a renowned abstract artist, will be dedicated during the remembrance.
“I always see art as political; art as protest,” said Richard Parsakian, a long-time LGBTQ activist and the event’s organizer.
City Councilwoman Erika Strassburger, who represents Shadyside, has said the mural’s design was intended to promote a connection with the LGBT community. It is the city’s second “artistic intersection.”
The police raid on a gay bar in the wee hours of June 28, 1969, has been called many things: the Stonewall Riots, the Stonewall uprising and the Stonewall Rebellion. At the time, bars like the Stonewall Inn could expect to be a police target as very few establishments welcomed openly gay people.
But the raid that night didn’t go as planned. An agitated crowd began to grow. Taunts turned into thrown beer cans. And a movement was born.
“They just said, ‘Enough. You’re not going to do this to me today,’” said Billy Hileman, publisher of the now-defunct “Planet Q” and a local LGBT historian.
Hileman added, “This is what all oppressed people do at some point. And that’s what the anniversary means.”
It would be still another 14 years before the American Psychiatric Association would remove homosexuality as a mental disorder from its diagnostic manual. Same-sex marriages became legal in Pennsylvania in 2014 and nationwide a year later.
The event is free and open to the public. Festivities start at 7 p.m. Friday and include a musical performance by Etta Cox, the raising of the pride flag and a number of local speakers who are expected to touch on the progress made in the past 50 years.
Anastasia Walker, a transgender lesbian from Forest Hills, said she plans to attend the event because it’s important to remember what birthed the gay rights movement and the obstacles that still remain.
“We lose sight of the grit and a lot of the pain that went into building this movement,” Walker said. “It’s good to celebrate our progress.”
Nicole C. Brambila is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Nicole at 724-226-7704, [email protected] or via Twitter .