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St. Pete Pride

St. Pete Pride

MAP>
3150 5th Avenue North
St. Petersburg FL
Website

For updates on upcoming events see our website.

For the last forty years, the last weekend of June has marked an important history for the GLBT community. Hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets every year to celebrate our right to express sexual orientation and gender identity in a safe and accepting environment. The number of events, organizations, parades, and supporters of the GLBT community has grown into a solidified culture within these last four decades, one which demands respect, protection and equal treatment. It’s hard to believe that something so colorful started on a muggy night, in a dark bar, in the wee hours of June 28, 1969 with police raiders and rioting patrons.

Stonewall: The Cornerstone of the Modern Gay Rights Movement

The people of Stonewall Inn at 53 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village were no strangers to police raids. Roughly once a month, fluorescent lights would flood the bar, warning the patrons inside of the impending procedures they were all too familiar with. Officers strutted through Stonewall, lining patrons against the walls and checking the identification of every man and woman inside. People with no identification were arrested. Men in women’s clothes were arrested. Anyone “touching inappropriately” or who looked suspicious was arrested, in a roulette of bullying and public humiliation, and often the bar’s stock of alcohol was confiscated. But despite the regular police intimidation, Stonewall Inn was one of the most successful gay bars in New York City. In fact, it was regarded as the gay bar of New York City, for one reason above all: its unprecedented two-story dance floor. People went to Stonewall because they loved to dance, and nowhere else in the city could two men dance together, making nights at the Inn worth every risk.

The owners of Stonewall Inn were used to making weekly payoffs to the police, as an incentive to not cause too much harm to the business or the people inside, and usually would get a tipoff before the regular raids to prepare for what was to come. They had no warning of the raid on June 28, 1969, which came in the middle of a show. As bright lights came in, followed by eight officers, the breath of the moment went out, and was replaced by quiet somberness. But as the police followed their routine, something different arose within the crowd. Later interviews reported an electricity that ignited the crowd that night, an energy that would change the view of the gay community and spark the fight for equal rights that continues to this day.

Someone booed. Voices insulted the police. The more the police fought to squelch the rebelling patrons, the more they infuriated a growing mob. The police were followed to the awaiting paddy wagons along Christopher Street. The mass of people rocked and pounded the wagons, forcing open the doors and freeing the detainees inside. As airborne coins and rocks soon became bottles and bricks, the police retreated into Stonewall Inn, leaving the crowd to claim the street. The crowd stood up to their persecutors, and won.

St. Pete Pride Parade: Following Tradition and Commemorating Stonewall

Today we commemorate the bravery of the Stonewall rioters with a parade on the last Saturday of June. This tradition started in a couple large cities – New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago – in 1970 and has since become a focal point for the solidarity of our community across the nation. The City of St. Petersburg has been celebrating its GLBT community with a Pride Parade for the last eight years. Within this relatively short amount of time, St. Pete Pride has grown into one of the largest Pride events in the southeast and is the largest Pride event in the state of Florida. What started as a few thousand native Floridians and a couple city blocks on beautiful Central Avenue has become an international attraction, spanning eight blocks and attracting tens of thousands of people. In 2009, St. Pete’s Grand Central District hosted over 80,000 supporters of the GLBT community, and that number is expected to grow next year during the 2010 festivities.




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