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Published in: January-February 2020 issue.


A Riot in Name Only It’s rare that The G&LR itself makes it into this column, but here goes. A well-researched piece in lgbtq-Nation.com has called us out for an essay that appeared in our 25th-anniversary book In Search of Stonewall. The essay is titled “The Black Cat Riot in L.A.” (from May–June 2012), by Eve Goldberg, and author Michael Bedwell contends that it repeats a myth that has become a meme: the claim that a “riot” took place at the Black Cat bar in L.A.’s Silver Lake district on New Year’s morning, 1968. There was certainly a police raid, and an especially brutal one, but Bedwell can find no evidence of resistance—no police reports, no eyewitness accounts, no photographs—that would justify the word “riot.” Indeed, no one really argues that a riot took place, including Eve Goldberg, yet the label “Black Cat Riot” has stuck: it’s what you would google to find out about this event. Nor is this usage just a rhetorical  matter: it has led to the oft-made claim that the Black Cat bar and not the Stonewall Inn is the true site of the first gay uprising and should be celebrated as such. What is the case (and what Eve Goldberg mostly talks about) is that a major gay rights demonstration took place about a month later outside the Black Cat. This protest spawned a newsletter that became The Advocate, but it got almost no attention in the mainstream media, and there was little follow-up. So even if there had been a riot in Silver Lake—and indeed there were other riots in various cities before Stonewall—it was the one in Greenwich Village that sparked a revolution in the summer of ’69.

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