There is no greater moment than when a group of oppressed people finally stands up and says, “no more.” In New York City, on June 28, 1969, that moment finally arrived for the patrons of the Stonewall Inn. It began as harassment as usual for the group of New York’s LGBT citizens when a group of police officers stormed the bars full of patrons, separating the men from the women. Female officers patted down the women to determine if they were dressed in drag. When police vans pulled up and the officers began roughly loading the patrons inside, a crowd gathered. The bar patrons, drag queens, and surrounding crowd fought back. This scene, wrought with injustice, sparked the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.
Initially, this scene was ignored by Chicago’s newspapers. The LGBT citizens of Chicago continued being harassed as usual. Lesbians wearing men’s shirts were arrested for cross-dressing, cops stormed gay bars, and drag queens were groped in order to confirm their manhood. The LGBT Chicago community reached a breaking point. A year after the riots in New York City, activists in Chicago marched to mark the anniversary of the uprising. This march, as Chicagoan LGBT citizens chanted “Gay Power,” marked the LGBT’s community’s decision to no longer accept second-class treatment.
The next year, Chicago’s gay community marched again, and again it was a statement of political defiance, but also more festive. By 1972, an estimated thousand people marched in the parade as protesters hurled rotten eggs and rocks in their direction. Over the next 40 plus years, the parade continued to change. Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade has grown from a few hundred in 1972, to a few thousand in 1977, and to a few hundred thousand by 2015. The Parade became more of a celebration of what it means to be a part of the LGBT community. The community marches as a cultural and social statement that the LGBT people are equal in every way and demand equal treatment.
There is a reason the Chicago Gay Pride Parade became more festive as years have passed – the community has more to celebrate, thanks to the revolutionary spirit of the first parade marchers who faced rotten eggs, rocks, and worse for their rights. First, the Chicago mayor declared anti-discrimination laws in the workforce. Recently, the first parade took place under a U.S. president, raised in Chicago, who supports LGBT right to marry. And today, U.S. Armed Forces can march openly with pride without fear of discharge from their service. It is because of those first brave marchers that almost 50 years later, political leaders and almost a million people join Chicago in celebrating LGBT pride.