How Do You Correctly Protest? by Shannon Uppal
Short Answer: There is no answer!
Long Answer: Protests come in many forms: peaceful, violent, destructive, written demonstrations, civil disobedience etc. One form linked to LGBTQ+ history has been riots. Riots have served as a place for radical change all throughout the history of the United States. Starting all the way in 1773 with the Boston Tea Party, to present day 2020 with the riots resulting after George Floyd’s violent death, riots have become the one of the main ways for marginalized groups to show that they do not tolerate the unfair treatment they are receiving from their oppressors. Although many people see riots as being ineffective and causing further damage to the movements, it is important to realize that a mixture of peacefulness and violence has been present in many large scale movements throughout history, especially the LGBTQ+ movements.
The cause of all riots stem out of a group's continuous oppression by the system they are rioting against. Molly Edmonds states, “There is usually a certain trigger which converts rage into action … Triggers tend to be acts of authority deemed outrageously unfair or acts in which it seems that authority has failed”. Many times, the unjust treatment of people in the LGBTQ+ community sparked many demonstrations anchored to spark change on the legislative level. There is only so much a society can bear before reaching its breaking point. For the LGBTQ+ community this breaking point is pinned at the Stonewall Riots, but schools often leave out a variety of demonstrations that took place before Stonewall when teaching about LGBTQ+ history.
In LGBTQ+ history, there were many demonstrations which preceded the infamous Stonewall Riots which occurred in 1969. According to the source Vice, “Historians have documented more than thirty LGBTQ+ demonstrations, sit-ins, protests, and riots that occurred in the U.S.'' which lead up to Stonewall. Below a number of the demonstrations, not usually included when learning about LGBTQ+ history, are linked. Three out of five of the sources linked are published by newsletters focused on queer representation in the media, #1,2, and 5:
Cooper’s Do-nuts Riot, Los Angeles, 1959
Dewey’s Restaurant Sit In, Philadelphia 1965
Julius Bar Sip-in, New York April 1966
Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, San Francisco August 1966
Black Cat Tavern Riot 1967
All of these movements, and more, were so important in pushing for the liberation of the LGBTQ+ community. These smaller protests were drastically important in creating a momentum which allowed the Stonewall riots to take place. They also show the importance of keeping the momentum going during a movement, the LGBTQ+ community did not stop then and will not stop until all discrimination based laws are abolished and equality is reached.
Arntsen, Emily. “Are Peaceful Protests More Effective than Violent Ones?” News Northeastern Are Peaceful Protests More Effective than Violent Ones Comments, 10 June 2020, news.northeastern.edu/2020/06/10/are-peaceful-protests-more-effective-than-violent-ones/.
Avery , Daniel. “10 LGBT Uprisings Before Stonewall .” Newsweek, 23 June 2019, 4:27 PM, www.newsweek.com/before-stonewall-riots-1445365.
Lourenco, Denio. “5 LGBTQ Protests That Set the Stage for Stonewall.” Vice, 24 June 2019, www.vice.com/en_us/article/d3nenv/lgbtq-protests-before-stonewall.
“Milestones in the American Gay Rights Movement.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/stonewall-milestones-american-gay-rights-movement/.
Thorpe, JR. “9 Times Riots Created Real Change In America.” Bustle, Bustle, 1 June 2020, www.bustle.com/articles/79397-are-riots-effective-9-times-violent-demonstration-changed-american-politics.
“The ‘Sip-In’ at Julius' Bar in 1966 (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, www.nps.gov/articles/julius-bar-1966.htm.