KNOWLES: The Dirty Truth About ‘Stonewall’ That LGBTQ Activists Want Ignored

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 02: A general view of the exterior of the Stonewall Inn on March 2, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images)
Ben Hider/Getty Images

Pride Month is the Ramadan of sexual revolutionaries, and the Stonewall Inn is its Mecca.

On June 28, 1970, a group of LGBT activists staged the first “Pride Parade” in New York to mark the anniversary of the “Stonewall Riots” the previous year. The riots began, the story goes, after homophobic police raided the Stonewall Inn, one of the few “safe spaces” in which homosexuals could meet before the social movements of the 1960s and ‘70s liberated them from the oppression of traditional American society. The put-upon club-goers responded to the raid by rioting. Some threw rocks and bottles at the cops. Others lit garbage cans on fire. At least one person uprooted a parking meter and used it as a battering ram. According to the popular narrative, the proprietors and patrons of Stonewall had committed no crime but the love that dare not speak its name.

The legend of Stonewall has turned the non-descript bar into a progressive pilgrimage site, not merely for homosexuals, but for liberals of all stripes. There, defenders of freedom overcame the armed enforcers of the repressive state — at least according to the narrative, which will be told and retold ad nauseum for the rest of the month. But the legend bears little resemblance to reality. In fact, the police had plenty of reasons beyond prevailing sexual standards for shutting down Stonewall.

For starters, the bar was run by the mob. In 1966, the notorious Genovese crime family bought the “straight” Stonewall Inn restaurant and converted it into a gay bar, as they had other establishments, hoping to profit by protecting then-illicit public homosexual behavior. During the renovation, the mafia neglected to install a fire exit, running water behind the bar to wash glasses, or functioning toilets. Barbacks “cleaned” dirty glasses by dunking them in tepid tubs of water before immediately reusing them. Stonewall was a dingy death-trap.

But the Genovese family proprietors harmed their gay clientele in other ways. Not only did they gouge customers on watered-down drinks sold without a liquor license in a dangerous ambiance; they also blackmailed the bar’s wealthiest clients. Crooked cops abetted the crime ring by looking the other way and warning the mob of upcoming raids in exchange for payoffs.

Two years after the cops closed Stonewall, the bar reopened in Miami Beach but burned down two years after that. The bar’s original building in New York changed hands countless times in the decades that followed, housing a Chinese restaurant, bagel shop, and shoe store, among other business. In the 1990s, another gay bar took over the location, but mismanagement once again led to its demise. Yet another gay bar opened in the Stonewall building in 2007, and the City of New York named it an historic landmark in 2015.

Historical revision has transformed a seedy, mob-run nightclub into an icon of progress and liberty, as I detail in my upcoming book “Speechless: Controlling Words, Controlling Minds.” Revisionists often rewrite facts, but the subtlest revisionists simply “reframe” them, as the New York Times’s Nikole Hannah-Jones promised to do through her 1619 Project. “Reframing” transforms an historical vision by focusing on certain facts to the exclusion of others. We remember Harvey Milk as a martyr for LGBT rights; we forget his predilection for young boys and his support of the murderous cult leader Jim Jones. The same forces that have “reframed” the history of Stonewall seek to reframe many other aspects of our national story. To conserve our culture, we must remember the things they do not want us to see.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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