The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the LGBT community in response to a brutal police raid June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in NYC. The riots emboldened many LGBT activist groups across the nation, and is considered one of the most important events leading to LGBT rights in the United States.
One year later, June 28, 1970, activist groups in NYC, Chicago, and Hollywood planned to march in the streets to commemorate the riots. But organizer (and Metropolitan Community Church founder) Rev. Troy Perry said, “This is Hollywood. Let’s do something a little different — let’s hold a parade.” Perry, along with Rev. Bob Humphries and Morris Kight (Gay Liberation Front), asked the LAPD for permission to hold the parade on Hollywood Blvd. Once he realized it was the LGBT community making the request, Police Chief Ed Davis told the police commission, “If you’re going to let this group hold a parade, then you should let thieves and burglars parade, too.”
The police commission said the group could technically hold the parade, but issued unrealistic conditions:
- $1m dollar bond to pay overtime to the police
- $500,000 cash bond to pay merchants for the windows that would be broken by people throwing rocks at LGBT people
- Minimum of 5000 people marching
Knowing this was an impossible ask, Perry, Humphries, and Kight went to the @ACLU. They were assigned a lawyer named Herb Selwyn who took the case and the City of LA to court. The judge ruled in favor of the parade, and ordered the City of LA to “protect these people, even if you have to call out the National Guard.” All conditions for the parade were dropped, except a $1500 security payment.
Because the court case took up so much energy, they had not planned much for the parade. However, that Sunday afternoon, people marched. Perry remembered “there were about 50,000 people on the sidewalks. I had never seen more people with hats and dark shades on in my life. I was surprised that more of them didn’t get in the streets with us, but people were worried. They had jobs. They were concerned about being on television, being photographed. And yet, it was the best feeling in the world.”
In 1979, what had become the LA Pride Festival moved to West Hollywood.