On the afternoon of June 28, 1970, one of the first-ever Gay Liberation Day marches took place, originating on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, directly outside the Stonewall Inn. This event marked the first anniversary of the pivotal Stonewall Uprising. The group of brave marchers, started small at just 200 people, but grew to thousands by the time it ended in Central Park. People came from Washington, D.C., Boston, and college organizations in Rutgers, Yale, and Columbia to march.
This remarkable day, which marked the beginning of what we now know as the Pride parade, is captured in the documentary film Gay and Proud, directed by Lilli Vincenz and archived by the Library of Congress. While there's still a long way to go, these early activists paved the way for the freedoms the community has today.
The events of the previous decades created the backdrop for the creation of the first modern pride march. This became more like the marches for what we see today, as compared to the events, like the Annual Reminders, in the previous decade. The term "Gay Liberation" had new meaning within the LGBTQ+ community after the Stonewall uprising. Groups like the Gay Liberation Front, the Lavender Menace, and STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, created by Silvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson) rejected their predecessors and often had more radical goals. The old approach in the Annual Reminders and other early picket marches of dressing in suits and dresses with no displays of public affection was no longer accepted.
On June 28, 1970, participants, organizers, and the public stepped out on the streets in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles to be loud, to be proud, and to show the public who they were. Not knowing what to expect from the public and the police, the participants in the march that stepped off in Greenwich Village numbered about 200 people. By the time they reached their Central Park destination, their numbers swelled to over 10,000 participants. Something was growing within the community, and it was much more public than ever before.
Some transgender people who were there at the time said that organizers asked them to march in the back, but they refused.
"The trans community said, 'Hell no, we won't go.' We fought for this as much as you did, or even started it," said Victoria Cruz. "And we just mingled throughout the crowd. There was no trans contingent. We just mingled."
They started walking very briskly up Christopher Street, because they were scared. There had been bomb threats. People worried they would be shot at, or harassed again by the police. Martin Boyce was there, and he says that afterwards they joked it was "the first run."
"I was worried about being single file, because I just watched a program on National Geographic about wildebeests and I saw how the ones on the side were picked off. So I thought I would stay in the middle — but there was no middle."