L.A., 1/1/67: The Black Cat Riots

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“We are that little band the Future will celebrate!”
— Dale Jennings, “An Address to the Mattachine
Society Banquet Upon Receiving for ONE Magazine
The 1953 Achievement Award,” Tangents, Nov. 1953.

ON THE ELEVENTH NIGHT of February 1967, over 200 people from all walks of life—artists, teachers, factory workers, bankers, street cleaners, retired military men and women—filled the corner of Sunset and Sanborn in the heart of LA’s Silverlake district. Legal experts, clergymen, and local activists spoke on police brutality and homosexual rights while protestors waved signs demanding “No More Abuse of Our Rights and Dignity,” “Abolish Arbitrary Arrests,” and “Peace!” Across the street, nervous police clutched their batons while unmarked squad cars circled the protest like vultures.

The protesters were reacting to a bar raid that had happened at that very spot on New Year’s Eve in the Black Cat bar and New Faces bar (not to be confused with the San Francisco gay bar of the same name). Police raids of gay bars were common enough in LA at the time, but these raids had been especially brutal and humiliating for the patrons who were beaten and arrested that night.

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