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Stonewall Riots witness Mark Segal: ‘It’s probably the happiest riot there ever was’

Nina June 26, 2019

Mark Segal in front of the Stonewall Inn. (Highland Pictures)

This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

The protest took place in the early morning of June 28, 1969 outside the Stonewall Inn, a gay club owned by the mafia in Greenwich Village, in Manhattan, New York.

PinkNews spoke to LGBT+ activist and eye witness Mark Segal who was just 18 and just arrived from Philadelphia when police barged into the Stonewall Inn 50 years ago.

“I literally thought I was the only gay person.”

Segal explained that when he moved to New York in 1969, he “literally thought I was the only gay person.”

He added: “On the street, you could be, literally, stopped by the police for holding hands, showing any sign of affection, hugging.”

 

(Mark Segal)

“But, the minute you walked into Stonewall, there was a change. You could hold hands, you could kiss, you could show affection, but more importantly for an 18-year-old kid, you could dance your ass off.”

Nine police officers barge into the Stonewall Inn looking for “the queens, the dykes”

On June 28, 1969, at 1:20 am, two officers, Detective Charles Smith and Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine entered the Stonewall Inn. Shortly after that, seven other police officers came in, starting a raid.

They were interrogating people, stealing money from the wealthy people and kicking out the ones, like Mark Segal, who looked like “the kid next door.”

He added: “They wanted to harass you know, the queens, the dykes.”

At some point, there were more people outside than inside the bar. And people waited for the police to come out and started throwing anything they could find at them.

Segal explained: “It’s probably the happiest riot there ever was and the reason it was happy is very simple. The police represented two thousand years of oppression, everything that each and every one of us had ever gone through.”

Mark Segal’s first arrest. (Mark Segal)


“Gay people weren’t allowed to congregate. Yet, we were advertising for gay people to congregate and we were going to meet in front of Stonewall where we had just imprisoned the police,” said Segal.

On the third and fourth nights, the rain was not on their side. For instance, the Stonewall activists decided to distribute leaflets on Christopher Street.

“We were organising, and we were organising in public.”

The Stonewall riots and the Gay Liberation Front

(Mark Segal)

A year after the riots, on June 28 1970, people commemorated the events. It marked the day as Christopher Street Liberation Day. This parade became the first LGBT+ Pride festival in the world. “From the ashes of Stonewall came Gay Liberation Front.

“Gay Liberation Front and Stonewall are synonymous.”

More: 50th anniversary

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