A long and emotionally charged saga concerning what a plaque will say about the 1969 Stonewall riots outside of Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn may be nearing a close.
Last night a subcommittee of Community Board 2 approved revised language for the plaque, but not before further objections.
The proposed language reads:
Here in the waning hours of Friday, June 27, 1969, the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar that served the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. What followed were six days of sporadic uprisings by hundreds of diverse LGBT individuals, demanding an end to police harassment, arrests and raids on LGBT establishments. The Stonewall Rebellion is widely regarded as the catalyst for the modern LGBT liberation movement.
When a plaque was first proposed last summer, the language sparked enough controversy that the project was nearly scrapped.
People who participate in the riots were not involved with the planning process and the word “gay” was used as an umbrella term, causing members of the transgender community to argue that their participation in the riots wasn’t appropriately recognized.
There was also a reference to President Barack Obama’s mention of Stonewall during his 2013 inaugural address, causing many to think the plaque’s language was unnecessarily politicized.
“We’re dancing on eggs with this,” David Gruber, the community board’s chair, said during the subcommittee’s meeting.
The discussion got testy when a man named Tim, who said he participated in the riots, told the committee that the plaque’s language was incorrect, challenging its description of the protests and uprising as “sporadic” and its use of the word “raid” (even though the police action was described as such at the time, in a Daily News item with the headline “Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad”).
“I’m glad to hear a first-hand account,” Gruber said. “[But] this is a historic plaque on a building. We want to memorialize that the event took place at 53 Christopher Street. It’s not about recounting the history of what happened. We want language on a plaque.”
“It was a culturally significant event,” Tim replied. “It changed history.”
“Sit down,” Gruber said. “You’ve given your opinion.”
The man persisted, asking who wrote the language. No one on the subcommittee knew, and Gruber said that it didn’t matter. Gruber quickly opened an executive session, and the language was approved unanimously.
The plaque will also note that the inn is in Greenwich Village’s Historic District, a national historic landmark and on the national and New York State registers of historic places.
The full community board will vote on the language during its March meeting, which is yet to be scheduled.