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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

New Jersey, Bergen County’s LGBTQ Pride on 50th Anniversary of Stonewall

New Jersey recognized LGBTQ Pride Month as June in keeping with the national LGBTQ Pride month of June. Towns in New Jersey such as Englewood in Bergen County gave special recognition to the LGBTQ community in June. June was chosen as the special month for LGBTQ Pride because the Stonewall riots took place in June of 1969. The Stonewall riots in New York City is the most widely known of LGBTQ resistance/confrontation historical events. On its 50th anniversary, Stonewall is arguably the most famous rebellion having the most social impact regarding gays and lesbians fighting back on harassment and discrimination because of their sexual orientation and identity. While Stonewall was not the first such public rebellion against systemic harassment and arresting of LGBTQ persons in modern times, it is the one that made the lasting difference

Dozens of such demonstrations, resistance and rebellions and have been documented that occurred prior to the Stonewall riots. There are likely many smaller such public demonstrations of resistance that have not received public attention.

Ten years prior to the Stonewall riots, in Los Angeles, California, LGBTQs resisted LAPD officers who were arresting LGBTQ persons for congregating at a popular gay meeting place, Cooper Do-nuts, although the congregating was legal. The Cooper’s Do-nuts rebellion which took place in May of 1959, is regarded as the first LGBTQ uprising in the 20th century US history.

Arrested for Not Having Gender Presentation Match the Gender Displayed on ID Cards

John Rechy, a novelist, was one of those who resisted arrest and he wrote about this rebellion against harassment in his novel, City of Night. In City of Night, Rechy describes in detail about the LAPD’s systemic harassment of the Los Angeles LGBTQ community and the events that culminated in the Cooper Do-nuts rebellion. Many LGBTQ customers at Cooper Do-nuts had been arrested on the day before, and on the day of the rebellion, two LA police officers entered Cooper Do-nuts on Main Street in LA and asked customers for identification. Los Angeles law dictated at that time that if a person's gender presentation did not match the gender displayed on their their identification card, they were taken to jail.

The LGBTQ customers of Cooper’s were tired of being targeted by police and arrested for no other reason than their apparent gender did not match that on their ID cards and other LGBTQ indicators,  and  a large group of transgendered persons and other LGBTQ resisted arrest by throwing donuts, paper plates, garbage and coffee at the police officers until the officers were forced to temporarily leave. The LAPD returned to the scene with reinforcements. Some persons, such as John Rechy, managed to escape being arrested initially, but when the police returned with larger numbers, the rebellion broke out and the police closed down the street.

Arrested for the Crime of Cross-Dressing

In 1966 in San Francisco, cross-dressing was illegal, and the San Francisco Police Department routinely would target cross-dressers for arrest. A riot at Compton's Cafeteria as a result of these arrests was the beginning of activism by transgender persons in SF. In August 1966, three years prior to the Stonewall riots, an SFPD officer attempted an arrest of a transgender person who resisted the arrest, and nearby LGBTQ persons crowded the area and got into a melee with police as described by in a compilation of LGBTQ history.

Compton's Cafeteria was one of a chain of restaurants spanning four decades, in San Francisco. The restaurant where the riot broke out occurred on Taylor Street in the Tenderloin area. Many popular gay bars at the time were unwelcoming to transgender persons and Compton's Cafeteria was one of the few places where transgender persons publicly congregated.

Prior to this riot, Compton's Cafeteria management did not want transgender customers in their restaurant. They imposed a customer service fee on transgender persons and engaged in other acts of harassment to force them to leave the cafeteria. The restaurant management then directed their staff to call SFPD regarding the presence of transgender customers and the police would come and arrest them. The transgender community began picketing this restaurant in response to the SFPD arrests. One evening, the management of the cafeteria called the police regarding the presence of transgender customers. When one of the officers attempted to arrest one of the transgender persons, she resisted arrest, and the cafeteria erupted into a riot between transgendered persons and the police. This was one of the first public demonstrations of resistance by transgender persons against the police violence of which they were the targets.

The Stonewall Riots, arrested in NYC for Being LGBTQ

The Stonewall Riots of 1969 were actually a series of spontaneous rebellions by the LGBTQ community at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood New York City, a popular bar that catered to gays, lesbians and transgendered customers who felt accepted and welcomed there. Very few bars at that time, including those in NYC, welcomed LGBTQ persons. The gays bars that did exist were frequently raided by the police for no other reason than to arrest LGBTQ persons. On the morning of June 28, 1969, the NYPD arrived at the Stonewall Inn to arrest its patrons. Instead, the LGBTQ patrons could take no more of this heinous treatment and clashed with the police and resisted arrest and the NYPD lost control of the situation. Tensions escalated between the two groups and the neighborhood erupted into protests that night and more protests the next several nights. Neighborhood residents quickly organized into political activist groups to focus on establishing public places for the LGBTQ to associate and be open about their sexual and gender identity and orientation without living in fear of being arrested for doing so.

The LGBTQ uprising of the Stonewall Riots both had momentum as part of the sweeping civil rights cultural movement of the 60's and early 70's and gave impetus to the sweeping civil rights movement. A few years subsequent to the Stonewall uprising, gay rights organizations sprung up across the U.S., and on June 28, 1970, the first gay pride marches took place in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in commemoration of the Stonewall uprising and to further the gay rights movement.

What You Can Do

I am an aggressive and compassionate employment law attorney who is experienced and successful in representing LGBTQ executives and in obtaining monetary compensation for their being subjected to discrimination. I have successfully represented LGBTQ employees who were either terminated or forced out of their employment because of the bias against them and was successful in recovering money for them. I have also been successful in obtaining monetary compensation for persons who experienced harassment because they were perceived to be gay but who were not gay.

If you are being subjected to such unlawful workplace discrimination, contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law today for a free consultation.

New Jersey employment attorney, Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law serves clients throughout the state, including Bergen, Middlesex, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean, Union, Camden, Passaic, and Morris Counties with locations in Southern, Central, Western and Northern NJ to meet with clients.



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