Timeline of Recent Queer Radical Struggle in Philly

**featured artwork is by Art and short stories by: Wriply M. Bennet, visit for purchases and comissions**

1954 — Cops from Frank Rizzo’s precinct raid three clubs and arrest “female impersonators.” Continuing well into the 1970s, countless LGBTQ people are arrested, beaten and/or sexually assaulted by police when they raid queer bars.

 

February 1959 — Captain Rizzo and cops raid Humoresque Coffeeshop, 2036 Sansom, and arrest the owner and 34 patrons (“men with beards,” “women in tights”).

 

1962 — Rizzo, now Philadelphia Police Commissioner, instructs bar owners not to serve “drag queens,” under penalty of losing their liquor license.

 

April 25, 1965 — Dewey’s restaurant near Rittenhouse Square refuses to serve groups of “homosexuals and persons wearing non-conformist clothing.” Inspired by the Civil Rights movement, more than 150 Black, white, transgender, lesbian and gay people stage a sit-in, and three teenagers are arrested. After a second sit-in a few days later, management agrees to end its discrimination.

 

July 4, 1965 — The first annual Reminder Day picket at Independence Hall.

 

1969 — Gay Liberation Front forms in Philadelphia, with a significant proportion of African-American, Latinx, and Asian members.

 

September 1970 — Kiyoshi Kuromiya speaks at the Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention, organized nationally by the Black Panthers and held in Philadelphia, with a list of demands from the “Male Homosexual Workshop” to be addressed by radical Left movements.

 

June 1972 — In Philly’s first gay pride demonstration, 10,000 people march from Rittenhouse Square to Independence Hall. Marchers dress freely, sing and chant, rejecting the respectability politics of Reminder Day.

 

September 12, 1991 — Police attack ACT UP activists carrying a coffin across Broad Street to protest government neglect of HIV/AIDS amid a devastating death toll. A witness tells City Paper, “All of a sudden the entire mood changed from political protest to cops against fags and dykes. They beat the crap out of people.”

 

Dec 22, 2002 — Nizah Morris, a Black trans woman, is picked up by a police officer at 13th and Walnut and offered a “courtesy ride.” She is found bleeding from her forehead at 16th and Walnut and dies two days later as a result of traumatic blows to her head. Community members believe that the investigation was grossly mishandled or included a cover-up. Activists are still pursuing their own investigations 15 years later.

June 2016 — LGBTQ activists speak out against honoring a gay police officers’ group as Pride Parade Grand Marshals while trans and queer people of color experience racial profiling and deadly state violence. Philly GOAL steps down.

 

Sources:

City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia, 1945-1972, by Marc Stein

“Brushes with Lily Law,” by Tommi Avicolli Mecca, chapter in Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, edited by Eric A. Stanley and Nat Smith

https://thegayborhoodguru.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/deweys-famous/

http://www.epgn.com/news/local/12065-before-there-was-stonewall-there-was-dewey-s

http://www.epgn.com/special-editions/151-annual-reminder-anniversary/9065-lgbt-philly-in-the-early-1960s

http://outhistory.org/exhibits/show/philadelphia-lgbt-interviews/interviews/kiyoshi-kuromiya

https://aidsandsocialjustice.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/che-gossett-on-aids-activist-kiyoshi-kuromiyas-legacy-and-the-intersections-between-all-movements-for-liberation/#_ftn11

http://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/philadelphia-gay-pride-parade-2/

Philadelphia City Paper editorial, Sept. 20-27, 1991

https://slought.org/resources/an_anthology_of_existences_nizah_morris

http://www.trentonian.com/opinion/20160611/letter-to-the-editor-victory-goal-no-longer-philly-pride-grand-marshal

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