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What Occupy Wall Street Can Learn From Gay Pride

Stonewall1969

With Occupy Wall Street and Gay Pride set to intermingle this weekend, Linda Hirshman at The New Yorker takes some time to compare and contrast the two movements.

She writes that Occupy Wall Street, with its flash mobs and loose central message, could learn a thing or two about the Stonewall Rebellion, an event she notes was just one of many "gay-bar pushbacks."

What made Stonewall so special is the fact that activists from the relatively  timid Mattachine Society hadn't reorganized themselves into the more radical Gay Liberation Front and made a conscious effort to construct a solid message and action.

If not for [Oscar Wilde Books owner Craig] Rodwell, and the Mattachine’s President, Dick Leitsch, two nights of rioting might have been the end. In the previous five years, two similar uprisings in California had come to naught. But the day after Stonewall, a Sunday, teams of activists spread out around the neighborhood, distributing manifestos (“The Hairpin Drop Heard Round the World”). Unlike Occupy Wall Street, the gay activists had a clear list of demands. “Get the Mafia out of the bars,” the leaflets proclaimed. “No more police raids.”

Over the next few months, as the G.L.F. met and debated whether anyone is free until everyone is free and other movement-destroying rabbit holes familiar to the followers of Occupy Wall Street, Rodwell, the bookstore owner, decided to plan a march to commemorate the event on the fourth Sunday in June a year later. Call it the Pride Parade. There have been many gay parades since 1970, but at that time it was a revolutionary notion—that gay people would come out of the closet and into a parade all at once.

Hirshman goes on to say that part of Stonewall's success was the fact that it was simple, rather than involving heady, easily disorganized actions: "[Rodwell] he did not have to get everyone to agree on some lofty mission or to mass in front of a dozen banks to protest everything everybody did wrong, as Occupy did to so little effect on May Day this year. Just come out, as the old gay slogan said. And so they did."

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Comments

  1. Those cops look like The Village People.

    Did every guy back then have a porn stache?

    Posted by: ratbastard | Jun 21, 2012 1:54:52 PM


  2. LOL...get the Mafia out of the bars. How that work out?

    Posted by: ratbastard | Jun 21, 2012 1:55:47 PM


  3. As we approach the anniversary, I'm reminded of how grateful I am for the men and women who risked it all to fight oppression and do the right thing. i'm proud to call you family, and thanks for all that you did to open the doors for me.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jun 21, 2012 2:04:31 PM


  4. Modern day organizers, including LGBT ones, need to accept what Rep. Barney Frank has said so many times before: people marching means nothing to US politicians— if you want to make an impact on a politician, be a voter in his/her district and call/email/write/visit them. Organize that effort. I grew up in the 1960s and while I have tremendous respect for all of the people that marched, and even as a kid I wanted to march with them, times have moved on, and while marching and occupying might make the people involved feel better and feel like more of a group, they sadly aren't really doing anything that will directly impact politicians. It is my understanding that this is the new strategy of the Occupy movement- I hope so. Contrary to popular opinion, and the author of this piece, the Occupy movement did have specific complaints, and action plans to reach those goals, but the press downplayed or ignored all of that and focused on the act of occupying itself because it made for better ratings.

    Posted by: Eric | Jun 21, 2012 2:05:35 PM


  5. what marching does is inspire others to be empowered and take a visible and vocal stance for Equality and diversity in our communities.

    the march doesn't change the politicians - the empowerment of the march inspires people to change policians.

    http://littlekiwilovesbauhaus.blogspot.ca/2009/07/why-i-do-what-i-do.html

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jun 21, 2012 2:11:18 PM


  6. @Littlekiwi

    This point has frequently been brought up when people criticize marching as a technique. The problem is that there is a huge probability that all of the effort and resources that go into organizing, or even attending, makes people feel like they've actually already accomplished something. Hey, I marched, I've done my part.

    It also fails to take into account the negative pushback from marching. Living in Los Angeles, and now San Francisco, where people march for something every week, if not every day at times, I've been on both sides of this. When you march you inconvenience people trying to get on with their lives, and they don't forget. They might have been your friend before, but what they remember is when you delayed them an hour on their way home from work. I've actually been on city buses delayed for marches of various kinds, and heard the howls of the other commuters when these things happen.

    Just one example is a few years ago at San Francisco City Hall when Mayor Newsom was celebrating the start of Pride Week. Everyone was assembled, including the press, for the flag ceremony, etc. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) chose that exact day and time to march on City Hall, including marching inside, and totally ruined the entire event. I'm a pro-union man, but I'm also gay, and that particular organization did not make a lot of friends that day in the LGBT community or San Francisco at large.

    Posted by: Eric | Jun 21, 2012 2:27:59 PM


  7. Yes, Occupy could learn from the gay rights movement.....

    They could take regular showers and at least attempt to gain employment instead of acting as if their total lack of employment determination is the fault of society.

    I was a big supporter of Occupy at first but it quickly became evident they had zero desire to work for a living. It was perhaps the biggest waste of a golden opportunity ever.

    Posted by: Michael | Jun 21, 2012 2:29:50 PM


  8. Yes, Occupy could learn from the gay rights movement.....

    They could take regular showers and at least attempt to gain employment instead of acting as if their total lack of employment determination is the fault of society.

    I was a big supporter of Occupy at first but it quickly became evident they had zero desire to work for a living. It was perhaps the biggest waste of a golden opportunity ever.

    Posted by: Michael | Jun 21, 2012 2:29:55 PM


  9. Proofreading note, Andrew:

    "...activists from the relatively timid Mattachine Society *hadn't* reorganized..."

    The "hadn't" should be changed to "had."

    Posted by: Rich F. | Jun 21, 2012 2:32:16 PM


  10. OWS should learn from ACT UP

    Posted by: say what | Jun 21, 2012 2:49:35 PM


  11. Pride ≠ Stonewall

    Posted by: Scott | Jun 22, 2012 3:31:26 AM


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