PLANÈTE+ – TUESDAY, JUNE 13 AT 8:55 P.M. – DOCUMENTARY
The riots that shook New York in June 1969, following a police raid on an underground gay bar in Greenwich, the Stonewall Inn, are often presented in the United States as the starting point of the struggle for gay rights. The strength of the documentary directed by Mathilde Fassin is to place these events in the history of a larger movement, which led to Gay Pride, the “pride march”, now organized every year in many cities across the world.
“Bar raids, there were before and there were after that of the Stonewall Inn”says Karla Jay, lesbian ” in the closet “a witness to the time when “it was forbidden to serve drinks to homosexuals, because(they) prop(ent) criminals”. Between the 1920s and 1960s, “Tens of thousands of men have been arrested in New York for homosexual solicitation”abounds the historian George Chauncey, recognized specialist in gay and lesbian studies.
All the gay bars were bribing the police to turn a blind eye. “Either they belonged to the mafia, or they were protected by it”, explains Karla Jay. For customers, fear dominates. That of losing your job, of seeing your friends move away, of breaking up with your family, of being controlled by the police who harass them.
Raccount of witnesses
In this repressive context, what happened on the night of June 28, 1969 that was different for the community to rise up? “All the anger, frustration and pain that we had been repressing for years because of the social straitjacket suddenly exploded”, says a witness. Customers checked are kicked out, but refuse to leave the premises and return the following nights. It’s the police’s turn to feel “threatened” by those individuals who throw lighter fluid on the facade of the Stonewall Inn, sing, dance and throw ” small change ” to denounce the hypocrisy of bribes.
“The specificity of these riots is that they gave birth to a movement”, says activist Ellen Broidy, who was there those nights. A political movement, which is structured to demand equal rights and celebrates with a march, the following year, its own birth. “Blacks, drag queens and transsexuals no longer wanted to be walked on”ensures George Chauncey. Drawing inspiration from contemporary feminist and anti-racist movements, the gay community is politicizing its fight.
Through the accounts of the witnesses, enriched with archival images and elements of historical context provided by George Chauncey, this documentary sheds light on the “mythology” of the Stonewall events and places them in the cycle of struggles to which they belong, by evoking the homosexual fights before 1969, then those after.
“Gays, clandestine years”, a story in 5 parts
Stonewall, the origins of Gay Pridedocumentary by Mathilde Fassin (Fr., 2020, 52 min).