The Stonewall riots were a clash between patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, and New York City police that started on June 28, 1969. The riots have had a lasting impact for the world's GLBT community.
The gay community in 1969 was a relatively unknown group within society, and if known about was often not accepted nor even tolerated by a majority of members of US mainstream society. There had been clashes between the gay community and New York City authorities in the past, and police would at various times find cause to arrest gays and lesbians, or inconsistently issue citations against gay community meeting venues for various alleged infractions of city ordinances. Such actions on the part of authorities were a routinely occurring part of life in New York City for gay men and lesbians at that time. Actions which today might be characterized differently - even as harassment - passed at the time without significant reaction from members of the gay community affected.
On June 28, 1969 however, the patrons of a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn reacted and fought members of the city's police force in a violent battle that raged for several hours inside the Stonewall Inn, spilling outside the bar into Christopher Street. The following night another similar riot took place between police and members of the GLBT community. Drag queens, lesbians, gay men and transsexuals are reported as comprising the majority of the crowd fighting the police, and members of the Hispanic and black communities are also said to have been prominent amongst those rioting. A third night of riots ensued after this.
There was a ripple effect following the Stonewall riots as gay community members learned from each other, and from mainstream media reports, what had transpired. As there had been no precedent for such a visible action of civil disobedience on the part of the GLBT community prior to this, the Stonewall riots had a polarizing effect - bringing a sense of community previously unfamiliar to many GLBT people.
The riots at Stonewall continue to be an important moment in the sociological development of GLBT people. There were commemorative events established as a result in various parts of the world including GLBT Pride events, Christopher Street Day (also sometimes known as CSD) events and an annual nighttime event called Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. In 1994 the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots was commemorated by the occurrence in New York City of the sporting and cultural Gay Games IV event.
People who were part of the Stonewall riots say that it gave many a personal feeling of belonging to an empowered group, on the basis of their sexuality, for the first time - whereas many had previously considered their sexuality to be something that caused them to be disenfranchised from, and relatively powerless in, mainstream society. The concept of being able to be honest or 'out' about one's sexuality in mainstream social interaction is a concept that many GLBT people trace back to commencing at this particular time.