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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Nelson

Lake Street Riots v Stonewall Riots

After just finishing one (1) book on the Stonewall riots, I cannot help but relate the events from June 1969 to what is happening now in Minneapolis. I cannot claim any sort of expertise on the subject, but here are two comparisons I discovered.

The Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back

Police brutality isn’t new. It’s been around forever and it’s only now getting to the forefront of news and media, since we have the capability to record everything with our phones. From Amy Cooper to Ahmaud Arbery, these are not new events. So what makes George Floyd’s death something we need to riot over? It’s because this is it, the straw that broke the camel’s back.

In New York City 1969, police raids on gay bars weren’t new. For various reasons (Mafia-related inquiries, drug usage, illegal activities), police were allowed to raid gay bars as they saw fit. This was completely aside from the “ambiguously-defined statutes” in place that prohibited by law any acts of homosexuality. But when the police raided The Stonewall Inn in June 1969, everyone had had it. There was that straw again.

Rioting Divided

Stonewall accounts have stated that gathering in organized groups was incredibly difficult. The reason was mostly because of a division in the community about how to protest. Some wanted a peaceful protest, and some wanted to start fires throughout the whole city. Even in the months following the Stonewall riots, that division was made more and more clear as various groups formed, all with different missions. The Gay Liberation Front formed after several groups came and went, but held strong with their powerful and ruthless political tactics.

On May 26th, 2020, there was an organized protest at the location of George Floyd’s murder. “We don’t want any other dangerous things to take place today,” said Raeisha Williams, sister of Tyrone Williams, in one of the early addresses of the peaceful protest that took place. “We must be safe as we demand justice for our brother. I can’t ask you enough to please be vigilant around you and make sure that you and your neighbors are being safe. Now there are going to be agitators that show up. Ignore them. I know, I know, I know. We are so tired as a community. Ignore bullies that come into our face and murder us cold blood.” As we’ve now seen from the events of last night, this has definitely escalated from silent protesting and as the days go on here in Minneapolis, I doubt anything is going to stop until reforms are made and justice is served.

Whether it’s Make America Straight Again or Make America White Again, we have a lot of work to do to create a county that is equitable for everyone. With allies and organized groups, we can set some change in motion. Just like with the Stonewall riots, more destruction could only create more distance between sides, but it could also bring people together around a common goal. Regardless, one thing these riots have shown me is that this fight is not over. It’s a fight all marginalized communities have fought throughout time, and enough is enough.

Here’s a petition to sign for #justiceforgeorge.

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