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een so the thing to understand the stone was who who did stumble it wasn't the kids were privileged it was the adults you know who had jobs it has people who convinced everything was ahead not that he was a people had nothing to worry about being arrested are being out anyway of all that the people who were worried about their future their professions their lives are their family setup they went out of all the storytelling it was the loneliest as a lot of people like me working class kids would not be phillips was an n n and that's why we fought the police they were empty that's why we're doing it because we were lucky to be at the right place at the right moment when there's enough of those willing to do it there always was some people who are willing to say no to the place but here was a good group for
people fifty or more people who are willing to death right then say now and fight back against police at an incursion excited so many others dills are joined as if there was a huge numbers the stonewall riots was not large huge numbers of people get not there's a lot of people looking and watching but those who actually active was much smaller numbers you know we're talking about fifty a hundred people were actually doing so when you think about the cars clubbing people and was willing to be attractive and going to consciously the test how yeah i did a sunrise and i have scars on my body from the dogs themselves i did it for other people and i certainly was reading out to do for my people that was the whole point stahl got me involved in the gay movement i
committed my life to our community still not done so i would try to do what ever it get away with without try not to get personally hurt but willing to risk being personally hurt if i could help others now not the first time yes basically i know about paddy wagons they were robbing people aren't activists are being put in cars not paddy wagons on but basically at the police were brutal and as
the whirling of getting in clubbing people and try to break up the resistance basically people were saying that this is our street and the police whole purpose was saying though it's not we have controlled the streets you need to not be here these are our street you need to move on and i are art the irony is that we say that people actually were residents eventually over the nights where she lives in the neighborhood too was so it went from the street kids to being just a lot of residents who were just upset with the way the police were acting and you were just asking the police are challenging that what they were doing and the place turning on them to physically session that point was everybody's clear i mean they were they were because they did not have a deadline who was and wasn't they just were shocked that the people it got a little you were they knew that these nellie it's they were getting but they had no idea that these other people and they learned a lesson that there was a lot more gay people around soon
or queens you know the river is is very offended that young men who had put on some makeup and they'd press around and that was offensive to the police and they didn't want to play the role of being macho male which was not my role i was very much melodrama fight and so i didn't really to that but i came to respect those kids after years of being afraid of being those kids and i think it was the stonewall that brought us together you know is that the the rough crowd in the park which as borat i related to with the fancy kids i joined the allies were all of the state income that was at an economist all created a community much more debt if i'd never previously been we always know we were
around but not in it together and working together to make change stonewall led to his working and building a mood and you were saying earlier that instead of jumping over the bathrooms and certified public places on what were you afraid that in terms of like trying to watch boardwalk around plainclothes police and that's what i was fearful as a young person to be discomfort of being gay not be discovered by gay people apply and be discovered by a police officer who could harm me i didn't know exactly what the police were doing today by knew it was not good and i knew it when i get arrested so i have the very careful in the parks and the public
bathrooms i went into looking for other gay men it was so limited to some restricted you know except for the few mob owned bars that allowed some socializing ok it was basically for bowed and so we had to create these spaces and so men's bathrooms wasn't a logical place to go for as dirty as they worked in the subways there were a lot of kind of off the beaten path and kind of private and they were filled with gay men but many of them married husbands people who are not out people who are never going to come out and that too i mean we met him in the parks it was people who they were not either associate of the day today than they were just looking for sex anonymous sex that was a lover's lights you know other heterosexuals have
really had lots of sexual outlets they called hotels motels lover's lanes drive the movie theaters except for gay people were told we didn't have it that and he had no right to such soul we had was there damon says gay people had no social outlets like heterosexuals for dating we didn't have a drive in movie theaters where we could make out each other in public we didn't have motels we could just sign up go into our hotels we didn't have a lover's lanes we got there was there was no legal place for us to meet with each other so any place we did meet was under the law illegal i don't really remember you wanted a way to how terrified think that you
might have you can't imagine how scary it could be a great lover basically arm dion i learned i had a sense of who was who was i could i could tell if i went to a public bathroom if that person was gay or not and if they were a day i i avoided them and that others says i could because of guys hang out in those public bathrooms they were a day or police officers or you know who was who was close with standard bathroom and subways are who are also being out such a smelly crummy dirty place to go a place the hat the trucker feel that that did dumb greece for how animals you know they smelled awful attack and we were outside the truck's also
not just in the trucks go on the sides of the trucks were parked them and stuff but where else can we go we have no place other uses if you go out of public someplace that is ceo and they hurt you so we had a hide where we could go and have sex without being seen by the public and the public did not go down to the meat district at nighttime okay under the other the overhead freeway was there they're in these trucks lined up along but the water only people who joined as was the police who went into ratings and mayors had jumped into the river was cars the trucks were right along the river to get away from the police my parents had no idealistic
and i was really not sharing it with the day to day would arm my father knew i was gay my mother knows gay when i told him i told him i was thirteen i was gay a mother cried and cried cried my father said stay away from the public bathrooms you do to get into trouble again arrested there and that's why once the public bathrooms and then from there i learned that there are homosexuals and hang out in time square in the movie theaters and as violent there and then i was told you know stay away from the villages as cruz they're that's why i went there do you think is the situation most him i never heard most young people didn't live beyond two adults ages lot of other drugs on some of the military very poor working class neighborhood that they
are yours they gave that those kids came from everywhere they were knocked from the work i met pam i'm a gay people they came in from cleveland and pittsburgh just for the weekend there was nothing in pittsburgh there was not the cleveland form they drove all the way in two to hang out on christmas tree and these are the more privileged kids but the street kids they came from all over the country who had been thrown out of their homes by their parents to survive and the lineup of the streets because there is a lot especially a family kids you know that were obvious date nobody while hard those kids and they had no education you know they didn't go to college these are these were toss away caesar kids who lived on being prostitutes on the streets you know lived on whatever way they can get some money
together and and work tough situations where you know were putting together our forces that no one answer to the puzzle for that way but interesting ways that year there is what what caused the rage at that time there was a series of events on course most important is it's ongoing harassment by the police but they had done they had to and a series of raids of other gay bars and gay hangouts there was ana they were on a roll to show that they were in charge because they want to clean up the streets there was a big campaign by maryland's me to clean up the streets to get rid of all the world deprivation is out there that was me they were talking about and so they've raided the
checkerboard which is a very popular gay bar week before the stonewall and shut it down and that angered a lot of people there's only three bars on that street and that was one of the three and so it was very unpopular please do that and he was outraged but the police had done other things they had increased their raids and the trucks they had been on they killed two kids i'm not long before that shot them in the back dues to drag queens who were living basically off of their trade over down to the river and they were running away these kids and the police shot and killed the stairs and people knew that i mean the kids in the park near these kids you know they couldn't get just as easily cause that's how they made eleven you know that they hung out the port authority i mean and for sex and hung out that shows where the men for sex to make money to to survive
i i i probably i was fortunate because my parents allowed me to live with them and they didn't throw me out because i was gay so that made him quite different unique and i and i knew that i could do that that's why i came out to them when i do i am so tired only the police again there's always a cost item is earlier this year the tactical patrol force was a special unit inside of the police
department which was used to surgically for quelling demonstrations and riots that was set up by the police department especially trained units separate from the local police station is where the police normally had district precinct setups awfully signed this group was especially trained there were basically am because the military operation and they knew how to work together they were the fore runners what became the swat units a later period of their role is to stop it they were brought in when the local police department realized they couldn't stop it and as for assistance and soul of this is riding going on so it was natural to call them and they came in but they were also shocked because they had a deal with the same angry homosexuals history people that the local police department couldn't handle and they only feared a little better because they have more experience and knowledge and were more vicious with
their attackers they used their clubs they use their weapons and they knew how to do that mark as they had the precinct police had no knowledge of it was street tactics are street demonstrations except holding her ground and to teach your friend after as they were active where we were no no i don't i just out i just know i would i recognize him because they want war on their their shirts tps rather than the number cosmos the police stations just had to like pretend to the tenth precinct or something these head tps and so and i also recognize some of my friends are from previous events i mean they're dead specially trained voice i have never been in the peace movement and the civil rights demonstrations the partisan issue they had they had helmets and i had caught which is different
which that was the other difference not duck the publicist and forty years ago so i had over the years the police have now added helmets to the air to how they dress and he sees it don't think they had helmets but they definitely worked as a group as as it as you get it and they didn't have shields at their town but they had clubs and longer clubs arm the good the other thing is it has worked to organize they weren't single police standing there not all just the opposite i was invigorated i had seen something i had been waiting for my whole life i didn't find it sixty nine already had been seven years of protest movements and lots of experience i was i would play major roles in in various stations and this is a dream come true i was waiting and i didn't know i was waiting for that for
that weekend it was on we had talked about for me gave a militant organization but i was not particularly excited by the thought of that ever happening and stonewall convince billy it was possible just yesterday each night was home was filling it was the place to be for me all i was young i was twenty years old it out a fur for most young people twenty years old you're looking for action whether she'll beat parties or movies or our concerts were never for me as a political person are fighting the police work was accepting thing at the time and for me having gay people find police what was the most exciting thing possible ii i could never envision that my wife earlier there would be other gay people and they join me in physically fighting the police i am that's what we did an analyst there
is a concern it could get rid of my energy every night hours just empties bikers knew i beat knew gay people there was three people would drive is every night and that was just so exciting there at that have gay people want to work with me to fight against injustice and discrimination to fight back against police abuse was is now the fords described in existence it has remained exciting to me ever since chris gregoire well approached me and them want to do scotty anniversary march for a stone wall and i thought that was a great idea and so i joined as particularly deep right committee armed and i ever tyson time i went to cleveland ohio and announced it to an anti war conference i was very much
involved with the four thousand gotten to vote to support it at that at that conference i whenever it has a water park so by political connections i was very much involves so i was able to use that and i was openly gay so i went out and i spoke before radical groups than done it gets among them were gay people to come to new york and take part in the march well the march was was continuation stonewall it was basically that we were proud of are resisting the police and that we will in stand up and stand our ground and water rights and a home and a place course try to prevent that march they blocked the march that would let as march we are what we did is we and reassembled on on crist or straight six harrier to march they put barriers refusal as march they say we have no right to march through the course was against lot of the homosexual to congregate
and so we went around the other way down the side street a downtown and ran out on to six devin and started running up six dare you to get past the police who try bloggers and there were hundreds and hundreds of times people probably a thousand people and we got the street and dr moore joins years and was maybe walking along the sidewalk you are weiner joins that was still afraid and down and we were just to live because we had no idea we would invest in march we have no permit we had the speaker's plan for the rally in central park where we have hope to get it we'd expected it to get to central park we were delighted we pushed the police back a twenty third street thirty fourth street they put the barriers and cars run across to four second street we pushed through them that we were willing to fight their the place which we had a fight we had a fight the place again on the first march to get up six devin and then after four second street bailout those alone and we were we marched
into central park and studio sheep meadow and we just joyce look at how they were behind as we could not believe there are thousands thousands joined us i knew we knew our time to come you know because we had no idea that we would make it to the two thirds of the rally site and have so many people just this week we thought it would be a small number of people there are thousands who came out clearly were inspired it was the time of course yes yes hugging and crying and end and there's not enough words to describe it was his joy his acts of pure joy oh we were just jumping up and down and an exciting with each other to be on top of that hill and look down that park and to see large crowds of gay people they are together i mean it was thats thats undescribable onwards i mean you know here i am a i am a young person who spent
years trying to find other gay people and try to find other gay people who would be struggling and fighting for social change and here on that day i saw thousands willing to do that and that i mean that was after year of the no stall we formed the gay liberation front prior to that we marched as a group set up to the central park but mothers need to be that many i mean we just were small group as people get leverage from these were not large numbers of people you know we have thirty people in a meeting fifty people tops the biggest and really just delighted that there's so many people well since then we've had glum are a movement that has emerged out that has marches in every city in the united states and in many countries overseas marches there are the hundreds of thousands ob australia's had a million people marching one night you've had a
huge marches and i take part in the ones in los angeles and you work there are hundreds of thousands of people and who's marching the march of standout you know but people they're joining i know me personally what it means to make hal's people out there who who've joined a movement and it means so much to me that if they don't know it but i'm marching to see the fruits of our labor and work he says the wind is i know something they don't know a great deal they don't know arm that there's a lot of violence on they also think it was just a drag queens who were basically who did the violence oh and it was some drag people who divides those mostly just three kids do most of us and then and there is a not knowing about a history that's continuing which is not even identify recognize it's ironic to notice every five years i come to new york and they put me on
top of my go down to st louis in march but in my own city of los angeles they never asked me to be a city in the parade which is ironic it doesn't you know it was like that the us postal service to issue a stamp for the story dylan and hopefully we will have won by the fiftieth anniversary of it live long enough to see us for service issue a stumble stamp i would like to see the united states government make sure that there's no more discrimination against people for whatever the reason is i'd like a long enough to see that i'd like to see it be on the united states i also liken ice is going to stop funding nations that make violence and oppression against gay lesbian people cause right now and as we said speak right now the night's discovery gives millions of dollars to countries and nations that murdered gay lesbian people illegally whether to crack or nigeria where sporting those
governments which are murdering gays and i think that that has to change last person i use a year ago while he was in vegas all things peacefully nineteen sixty nine like in that he's going to say why i know it well that's a very good question why the fighting is if we had not done the fighting if we got them the struggle we would not have made the changes we've heard made frederick douglass once said that the real change or comes to struggle and i believe that's really true that you have for many years there were gay people who tried to be respectful and tried to lead this great life in show by their own example how wonderfully where but most people didn't know they were gay or care because for most people homosexuals were dirt the lowest possible thing on earth it was better to be a murder
that the homosexual is because gay people got together and struggled and forth for change is why did they change and we would make more change if more gay lesbian people and i'm gay people would join us and stand up and speak out most people when they hear anti gay comments say not that most people when they see an anti gay activities in their own homes and neighborhoods do not de sosa complicity is why things haven't changed nor says only when you struggle and speak out and everybody can do this it doesn't have to be gay person but the problem is that most non gay people feel the reason they can't join again march and the reason i can speak out is because then they would be identified as being gay and that is the horror that they don't wish to have which explains why they need to do it homicides are human beings
well i believe stonewall is a another step since the enlightenment that has happened as part of the civil rights movement is part of the labor movement as part of the women's rights movement and its its a logical flow and other movements have also benefited from so most a civil rights or rover group of people who are discriminated against whether the gypsies or whoever no one should be denied rights as a person every day to be recognized for the humanity and to be treated as such equally and not be discriminated against and stonewall help move that for a woman to seek this be true i'm sure i'll be you know
builders leaflets put out by matt a shame to protest the police raids and we had a march so they were distributing those and in central park and the rambles which i went to annan and other areas of public bathrooms i could to forty seconds to public library and dump and that's where i saw those leaflets oh no not those just not those of pride was i could possibly be giving out flyers like that they didn't meet some are prized they have those but i didn't see that as gilligan cop was a cop who shot the young boy in the back that star the harlem rides okay and i used to go over and pick it gilligan's house
American Experience
Stonewall Uprising
Raw Footage
Interview with John O'Brien, 3 of 4
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WGBH Educational Foundation
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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Episode Description
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the Greenwich Village section of New York City. Such raids were not unusual in the late 1960s, an era when homosexual sex was illegal in every state but Illinois. That night, however, the street erupted into violent protests and street demonstrations that lasted for the next six days. The Stonewall riots, as they came to be known, marked a major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement in the United States and around the world.
Raw Footage Description
In this interview, John O'Brien talks about growing up gay in the 1950's, cultural oppression, the civil rights movement, Greenwich Village, the meat trucks, Stonewall, and the raids.
Copyright 2011 WGBH Educational Foundation
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Interviewee: O'Brien, John
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
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Chicago: “American Experience; Stonewall Uprising; Interview with John O'Brien, 3 of 4,” 2011-00-00, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 4, 2023,
MLA: “American Experience; Stonewall Uprising; Interview with John O'Brien, 3 of 4.” 2011-00-00. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 4, 2023. <>.
APA: American Experience; Stonewall Uprising; Interview with John O'Brien, 3 of 4. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from