Later that same day, Los Angeles held a “Christopher Street West” celebration on Hollywood Boulevard that drew thousands. Paul Houston reported in the Los Angeles Times on the “hour-long, mile-long procession” down Hollywood Boulevard: “Sunday evening had many things — joyous demonstrators for sexual rights and dignity, some in casual attire, others in briefs, ‘queens’ in drag, ‘fairies’ with paper wings, clowns, leather-jacketed motorcyclists, a lesbian on horseback, a python, white huskies, American flags, hilarious and somber signs and chants, a float depicting a homosexual nailed to the cross.”
“As a teenaged lesbian, I used to hang out on Hollywood Boulevard in the 1950s,” said Faderman, who attended the first Christopher Street West event. “I would say there must have been at least a thousand people. Let me also say that the straight press always underestimated the sizes of these gay demonstrations, but I can tell you it was astonishing and huge.”
There were also two “very small marches” in San Francisco and Chicago that year, according to Faderman, but by far New York City’s was the largest.
“We're becoming militant, and we won't be harassed and degraded any more,” Martin Robinson, a member of the Gay Activist Alliance, told The New York Times.
Michael Kotis, president of the Mattachine Society, told the paper, “The main thing we have to understand is that we’re different, but we’re not inferior.”
Now, nearly five decades after that first "Christopher Street Liberation Day" event on June 28, 1970, the annual NYC Pride March draws millions of participants and onlookers.
(Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Fred Sargeant and Craig Rodwell were members of the Gay Liberation Front.)
Want to see more? The New York Public Library’s digital archives contain several collections related to LGBTQ history. NYPL has the archives of pivotal organizations, such as the Mattachine Society of New York and the Gay Activists Alliance; the papers of pioneering activists like Barbara Gittings; and vast holdings in LGBTQ pop culture. NYPL also hosts the New York Trans Oral History Project.
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