Ever since the drag queens’ uprising 47 years ago in New York City, this gay bar’s name has become synonymous with the worldwide LGBTQ rights movement. And on Friday, President Barack Obama officially declared the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village a national monument.
“Back in 1969, as a turbulent decade was winding down, the Stonewall Inn was a popular gathering place for New York City’s LGBT community,” Obama says in a White House video released Friday. “At the time, being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender was considered obscene, illegal, even a mental illness. One night, police raided the bar and started arresting folks. Raids like these were nothing new, but this time the patrons had had enough, so they stood up and spoke out. The riots became protests. The protests became a movement. And the movement ultimately became an integral part of America.
“So this week, I’m dedicating the Stonewall National Monument as the newest edition to America’s national parks system,” Obama continues. “Stonewall will be our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights.”
On June 28, 1969, drag queens and other LGBTQ people fought back as New York City police raided Stonewall. The riots that began gained national attention and are considered the beginning of the modern gay-rights movement. A year later, the first pride parades took place in New York and in other large cities across the United States.
“The new Stonewall National Monument will permanently protect Christopher Park, a historic community park at the intersection of Christopher Street, West 4th Street and Grove Street directly across from the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village,” according to the proclamation. “The monument’s boundary encompasses approximately 7.7 acres of land, including Christopher Park, the Stonewall Inn, and the surrounding streets and sidewalks that were the site of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising.”
U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Friday that the new monument particularly resonates after the massacre of 49 people — most LGBT and Hispanic — at Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12.
“This designation ensures that the story of the courageous individuals who stood up for basic rights for LGBT Americans will be forever told, honoring their sacrifice and inspiring our nation towards greater tolerance and understanding,” Jewell said. “The tragic events in Orlando are a sad and stark reminder that the struggle for civil rights and equality continues — where who we love is respected and honored — on our march toward a more perfect union.”
On Friday afternoon, the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, said it would help raise $2 million to support the new Stonewall monument.
“The National Park Foundation is honored to support and jump-start critical projects at Stonewall National Monument to help ensure that the ongoing LGBTQ fight for civil rights is highlighted in a way that inspires people to reflect on how the story of the Stonewall uprising relates to their lives,” said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation. “As we move from the National Park Service’s first century into its second, we couldn’t be more proud to be part of a national park community that is committed to telling a more complete American story.”
In a series of news releases Friday, national LGBT rights groups quickly congratulated and thanked the president.
“Thank you President Obama for this historic designation of Christopher Street Park by the Stonewall Inn as a national monument,” said Russell Roybal, deputy executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force. “This is a great tribute to the courage, leadership, and action of the LGBTQ community in our continuing quest for full freedom, justice and equality. Trans and gender non-conforming people of color led the riots at Stonewall nearly five decades ago — and it is a cruel irony that today these folks face some of the highest levels of poverty, homelessness, discrimination and violence in our community. So while the Christopher Street Park National Monument will provide a focus for our community in times of happiness and in times of grief, it will also provide a vital beacon of inspiration as we continue the struggle for lived liberation.”
Said HRC President Chad Griffin: “The Stonewall National Monument will pay tribute to the brave individuals who stood up to oppression and helped ignite a fire in a movement to end unfair and unjust discrimination against LGBTQ people. The announcement is especially significant following the horrific massacre in Orlando, a heartbreaking reminder of the hate and violence we continue to face as a community. In the early days of our movement, the brave individuals who fought back at Stonewall and at other historic moments, helped inspire countless others. It is our hope that by honoring these pioneers, this new national monument will be a source of inspiration to a new generation of Americans across the country standing up for equality and uniting to show the world that love conquers hate. We are incredibly grateful for President Obama’s leadership in recognizing the LGBTQ community’s contributions to our nation’s march towards liberty and justice for all.”