Sunday, March 26th, 2023

Jim Fouratt on the Stonewall Rebellion

The Stonewall Inn, 1969

August 2, 2015.

Dear Mark Segal and fellow GLF members and allies and historians and friends:

You continue to use the word “riot” in describing the events in 1969 on Christopher Street. Please do not use the word “riot” unless you believe it is a proper term.

We were both present.

Here is how I came to decide to use the word “rebellion.” Your feedback is very welcome.

Riot: people out of control, looting. police arrests, injuries, hospitalizations etc.

Uprising: planned, aggressive actions (no one that I know of (even John O’Brien) has taken credit for what started at 10:30 the first night.)

Rebellion: When something can no longer be kept under control by external forces people rebel.

I suggest strongly that [tensions caused by] internalized oppression / homophobia and externalized homophobia and sexism, including misogyny, on that night triggered by the the actions of resisting  by a “passing” woman (a masculine-gender expression lesbian) exploded.

How people came out and said “no more” is a contentious issue. As most people know, I reject the straight template that people like O’Brien and David Carter place on it and I reject, based on my eye witness experience the romantic notion that it was “homeless youth” that were the core faction. That is a separate issue and only because a member of this group has hijacked the events with conscious confabulation to put himself front and center do I address it here.

John O’Brien’s lies and the repeating of them diminishes what actually happened and how gay and lesbian liberation was born in a second wave that night in the street in front of a building at 159 Christopher Street that housed a gay bar run by organized crime in complicit with the NYC police department.

I use the word rebellion because I feel having witnessed and participated the first four night it best described the spontaneous events that inspired each of us.

And for the record: Both Jerry Hooves and I shared the same experience and memory. Marsha P. Johnson was present. Sylvia Rivera was not present but had passed out on her way to Christopher Street as confirmed by Marsha P. Johnson. Sylvia “Ray” Rivera confirmed that to a number of us.

Bob Kohler was not present, and in his own words: “I was coming home from a cocktail party uptown. When I got out of the cab in front of my apartment building on Charles (two blocks away) around 11 O’Clock,  I heard noise coming from Christopher Street. I was tired and had been drinking so I thought I will find out what happened tomorrow and went upstairs.”

Both Sylvia and Bob were present the next nights and present on the third night when the Gay Liberation Front was founded in a meeting room at 14th and 6th Avenue on the second floor occupied by Alternate U …  the former location of the Living Theater.

I know some of you were not present these four nights of Stonewall. I also know that all of us were inspired to come to GLF and to come out.

We changed history.

I wish John would stop lying … because his attempt to hijack the origins of the modern movement is destructive to who we were and are.

I suggest for those of you who were present to remember how the Red Butterfly cell presented at the GLF meetings, usually John, and how out of sync they were with the people who for the most part never had been open about their sexual orientation or been consciously political.

Given we were consensus driven, Red Butterfly ideas as presented were consistently rejected, more because of form rather than content.

Thank you all for being who you are then and today.

jim fouratt