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Stonewall riots have Rochester ties

A watershed moment for the LGBTQ community took place 50 years ago Friday -- the Stonewall uprising in New York City. 

As the Out Alliance’s Tamara Leigh said, Stonewall was a moment where members of the LGBTQ population had enough. 

“There were very few places socially where you could go out and not be harassed by the police, arrested if the way that you appear did not match your license based on your gender expression,” said Leigh.

A police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, led to a crowd resisting the harassment and cornering cops inside the bar.

“That act of resistance that night by primarily street kids and transgender women and drag queens was truly the birth and the night that LGBTQ civil rights movement began,” Leigh said. “For the first time in American history, the LGBTQ community demanded equity, they demanded their rights, and they demanded their place in society.”

Leigh said seven days of protests in New York City followed. A few years later, some of the protesters migrated to Rochester, forming what’s now known as the Out Alliance. 

“If it wasn’t for them taking that stand, it wouldn’t have given us the position or the resilience or the confidence to take that stand over and over again,” Leigh said. 

Leigh said the battles for equity today are not just in the streets -- they’re also in the halls of power where groups like the Out Alliance fight to pass legislation. 

The group plans to commemorate Stonewall at events throughout the fall. 

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.
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