The Austin Chronicle

Sparking a Glamour Riot at the Capitol

By David Estlund, June 26, 2014, 10:00am, Qmmunity

Picture it: New York's Greenwich Village on a hot sultry night. Judy Garland's body lay in state just blocks away, but the kids at the bar were in no mood to mourn. Neither were they in the mood for abuse, so when the police came in for a shakedown, they fought back, sparking a queer revolution that continues today.

Tonight, Thursday, June 26, 7pm on the steps of the Capitol, Austin Pride will host their annual Stonewall Celebration, a tribute to the fateful series of riots in 1969 where queers fought the law and the queers won. The event's guest of honor and keynote speaker is Peter Rapp from Nashville, Tennessee, a participant in the Stonewall Riots and member of the leather scene who has since founded motorcycle clubs in Pennsylvania and Tennessee and served on the advisory board for the Vanderbilt HIV Vaccine Program in Nashville. He's in the process of writing a book on leather tops, and spoke with us about those hot three nights that sparked our nation's LGBTQ civil rights movement.

[The Stonewall Inn] was actually a pretty nice bar, the biggest around at the time. It was originally a straight restaurant owned by the mafia that they turned into a gay club, and on that night, like any other, a bunch of us went there to have a good time. There were about 200 of us, enjoying some good food and dancing. At about 3am, some plainclothes cops turned on the lights and cut the music – said it was a raid because the Stonewall Inn did not have a liquor license. We were all lined up for processing.

When we got outside, there were already a thousand people gathered, and suddenly it was a riot. People threw bottles and cans, they turned over a paddy wagon, and flipped police cars. A few of my friends were arrested, some got beaten up; it was really crazy. At that time a lot of the gay bars in the Village were being harassed. Supposedly the mafia and the cops had a financial understanding that kept Stonewall safe, but they had missed a few payments. 

The raid went on for three days, and we never stopped fighting it until the cops gave up and left us alone. The next week we held a march, the annual march that was to become the Pride parade, and the movement just kept growing until 1983, when AIDS hit the community. The epidemic took a lot of my friends, a lot of the organizers too, but it never stopped our progress. The movement has only moved forward since 1969. We've seen more and more progress, people coming out and standing up, even in the worst of times.

Come celebrate Austin Pride's Stonewall Celebration with Peter and a hot mess of drag performances sure to chap Rick Perry's hide.

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