Stonewall Was an Anti-Police Riot and ACT UP Was an Anti-Corporate Public Menace

Posted on June 01, 2020

Happy Pride, Everyone! A reminder during these tumultuous days: The queens and queers at Stonewall started a 3-day riot when a routine police harassment incident awakened decades of anger and exhaustion by a disenfranchised community. We now hold parades in their honor and every major corporation spends the anniversary of Stonewall “honoring” the memory of the rioters by slapping rainbows on their logos.

The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) was formed in 1987 in response to the AIDS Crisis and the public’s lack of interest. They protested, marched, chained themselves to stock exchanges, poured red paint down state house steps, and disrupted services at churches in order to force the public to acknowledge that a disenfranchised community was dying from a pandemic and no one cared. Their relentless attacks on corporations, the church, and the government gained them a ton of bad press, a lot of detractors within their own communities, and a succession of violent retaliations. Today, we celebrate the work of these people (including the recently departed Larry Kramer) while writing kindly essays about how necessary and restorative their collective anger was.


That’s it. That’s the post. We wanted to kick off Pride Month this year with a string of celebratory posts tied to our book. We’re still going to do that because no matter what, Pride is a joyous, life-affirming, necessary part of the queer calendar and queer lives. We need it more than ever. But we also need to remember that the people we’re commemorating; the people who fought so hard to center our lives, uphold our dignity and even keep us alive, the people we paint pretty pictures of and write loving eulogies about – were assholes and provocateurs who made a lot of enemies, were at the receiving end of a lot of sometimes violent pushback, and at various times during their lives, would have happily burnt it all down. Because in order to effect real change in the face of social genocide, the world needs people to act like assholes. Remember that when you’re raising a glass to Marsha or Sylvia or Larry. They were difficult people who spent their lives making the lives of others just a little bit easier. They were hated and attacked in their day and they had to break a lot of windows and set a lot of fires in their lives.  Honor them by honoring their descendants today.

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