With the president reportedly poised to make LGBT ground zero a national monument, witnesses and visitors reflect on the night the freaks fought back
In an upstairs room at the Stonewall Inn in New York, drag legend Lady Bunny paused her stream of filthy jokes and Adele parodies just long enough to tell her audience: This is ground zero for LGBT rights in this country and the world.
Most did not need telling. They may have been too young to have taken part in the 1969 uprising that began when lesbian and gay patrons fought back during a police raid, but they were acutely aware of the place in history that the bar enjoys.
So is Barack Obama. According to reports, the president is poised to declare the tiny, railed garden opposite the inn and some surrounding streets a national monument, in tribute to the struggle for gay equality that began there, then turned into a worldwide movement.
On Monday, the interior secretary, Sally Jewell, will hold meetings with veterans of the riots and local officials. An announcement could come as early as June, to coincide with the annual gay pride march that commemorates the Stonewall riots.
If they build an actual monument, I hope its made out of the bricks that were thrown at the police, said Lady Bunny, a drag queen, DJ, promoter, TV star and founder of the now-defunct Wigstock drag parades in the East Village who is almost never known by her legal name, Jon Ingle.
And wigs, and psychedelic fabric, and syringes and Judy Garland album covers: it needs to evoke that raucous night when the freaks fought back.
In fact, national monument status gives protection from destruction and development to objects of historic or scientific interest. The Stonewall Inn already has a physical marker of what happened 47 years ago: a sculpture of two couples by George Segal, sited in Christopher Park.