Causes and Impacts of the Stonewall Riots

 On Saturday, June 28, 1969 the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in New York City was raided by the NYPD at just after midnight. The inn itself was a gay bar that was owned by the Italian Mafia and was known to be selling alchohol without a proper licence. In these raids, they would arrest people accused of transvestism or soliciting for gay sex, as those things were outlawed at the time (Stock 382). Police raids on the inn were commonplace, and the raid on June 28 was just like any other. The bar’s patrons, however, had reached their breaking point. They quickly took to the streets and organized protests and demonstrations against the state-backed oppression they faced on a daily basis. This one raid sparked The Stonewall Riots, which marked the beginning of the gay rights movement.

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 The raid itself was led under the command of Deputy Seymour Pine of the NYPD. Raids such as these were part of Mayor John Lindsay’s re-election campaign promise to crack down on gay bars. The people arrested in the raid resisted the police and drew a massive crowd of onlookers, totaling 500 to 600 people (Poindexter n.p.). The suspects proceeded to get into fights with officers while the crowd cheered them on. The riot lasted for about 40 minutes in total. The event ended when a team of riot police showed up to clear the streets.

 In the hours after the riot, people observed the extent of the damage. Sheridan Square looked like a war zone. Felice Picano, who witnessed the event firsthand, describes the event as follows: “Coming out of that building two hours or so after the riot had happened, the bartender and I thought we were hallucinating. Sheridan Square was transformed and almost unrecognizable. There were large black NYPD buses all around the square blocking it off from other streets. There were wooden horses set up inside the park itself like a maze. You couldn’t see the Stonewall at all. There were wood panels over the window and doors. The place was filled with policemen and firemen in full gear. Everywhere you stepped there were big black fire hoses snaking along the ground. There was a Volkswagen knocked over onto its back. A taxicab was halfway up a fireplug. It had knocked the cap off and water was gushing twenty feet into the air. Stepping out of the building, we were immediately escorted by cops over to Seventh Avenue and told to go up to Bleecker Street, as the area was closed off. We couldn’t figure out what happened. It was like a meteorite had hit or something equally catastrophic,” (Picano n.p.). People were confused, scared, and anxious about what was going to happen next. The first riot’s effect on the surrounding area was devastating, and the destruction was only made worse by the six days of riots that followed.

 In the years after the riots, gay rights activist groups succeeded in changing government policy on LGBT+ issues. In 1982, Wisconsin made sexual orientation a protected class.  In 2000, civil unions between same-sex couples were legalized in Vermont. In 2003, a Supreme Court decision found that laws limiting or prohibiting same-sex conduct were unconstitutional. In 2006, the Supreme Court of New Jersey decided that heterosexual marriage benefits must also be given to same-sex couples. Finally, in June of 2015, the Supreme Court struck down all bans of same-sex marriage, making it legal in all 50 states. The fight for equality under the law took many decades, but it was achieved thanks to the efforts of LGBT+ activists like those involved in Stonewall (CNN Library n.p.). 

The riots’ effect on the people who witnessed it or participated in it was profound. They remember where they were when the riots started. Some were going out to eat, walking home, or going to parties. Others were inside the Stonewall Inn as the riots began. Miss Majors, a transgender woman who participated in the riots, remembers spitting at an officer and being knocked out with a nightstick before waking up in a police van (Picano n.p.). The riots were empowering to the gay community as they were seen as a turning point in societal discourse. People remember the event to this day just as vividly as the day it happened.

 The broader effect of Stonewall on the gay rights movement cannot be understated. The riots are generally accepted as the catalyst that marked the beginning of the gay revolution in America. The first Gay Pride parade was held in New York City exactly one year after the riots occured (Marotta n.p.). Since then there have been Pride parades in every major city in the United States and around the world. Today, parades in the United States and most of the first world are more of a celebration of how far the LGBT+ community has come, but that isn’t the case for countries like Russia, Japan, and most of the countries in the Middle East. Pride parades in those countries are organized to protest discriminatory government policies. In some countries, homosexuality and gender nonconforming behavior are criminalized. Activists in those countries use tactics similar to those of the demonstrators of Stonewall in the fight for LGBT+ equality.

 One single police raid was the last straw for the LGBT+ community. At first, it only caused a few days of rioting, but that was all it took to open people’s eyes to a community that had been largely ignored for centuries. The gay community took this as an opportunity to have their voices heard with protests and demonstrations throughout the United States. Because of this exposure, society’s view of homosexuality slowly changed, and there were laws put in place that gave the community more freedom and representation. LGBT+ people today, in theory, have equal representation under the law with sexual orientation being added to the list of protected classes, but there are still societal problems that need to be addressed. Despite these problems, the LGBT+ community has never been more accepted and liberated. At every Pride parade, the legacy of Stonewall can be seen with flyers, pamphlets, buttons, and T-shirts made in remembrance of the event. The effects of Stonewall can be seen all around the world. This single event in history has affected every member of the LGBT+ community more than any other event of its caliber and started a movement that brought the world one step closer to true equality. 

Works Cited

Marotta, Toby. “What made Stonewall different?” The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, vol. 13, no. 2, 2006, p. 33+. Gale Academic Onefile, Accessed 25 Sept. 2019.

“The Stonewall Riots.” Global Events: Milestone Events Throughout History, edited by Jennifer Stock, vol. 6: North America, Gale, 2014, pp. 380-383. Gale In Context: College, Accessed 25 Sept. 2019.

Picano, Felice. “The remains of the night: six Observers: Felice Picano talks with eyewitnesses to the Stonewall Riots.” The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, vol. 22, no. 4, 2015, p. 29+. Gale Academic Onefile, Accessed 25 Sept. 2019.

Poindexter, Cynthia Cannon. “Sociopolitical antecedents to Stonewall: analysis of the origins of the gay rights movement in the United States.” Social Work, vol. 42, no. 6, 1997, p. 607+. Gale Academic Onefile, Accessed 25 Sept. 2019.

“LGBT Rights Milestones Fast Facts.” CNN, Cable News Network, 26 Sept. 2019,


Causes of the Little India Riots

In December 2013, an alarming incident hit Singapore and shocked the entire world. Newspaper, reports on it spread across the globe. This incident is no other than the Little India’s Riot. The severity of this issue had sent different messages to the different communities in Singapore. For instance, the government realized the need to look into the issue of migrant workers, Singaporeans preconceived stereotype of these migrant workers worsen and migrant workers possibly losing a place where they can get to enjoy the sense homeliness that they missed dearly.

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Hence as a result of this highly discussed incident in Little India, I have decided to take a closer look at Little India and the tension that was built up among the residents and the migrant workers there. Prior to this incident, based on a research by T.C. Chang (2000), most of the initial displeasures came from the non-Indian community living in Little India. (Chang, 2000) However, the result of the riot had sparked off increasing concerns from the Indian residents as well. The riot did not occur due to the tension built up but it certainly did amplify the concerns residents have on the migrant workers and their existence. In this paper, we will look at the history of Little India and the present situation, followed by the reasons for the migrant workers’ gatherings and finally the cause of these tension built up to provide a better picture on how the co-presence of migrant workers and residents created tension. However, prior to that, I would like to introduce certain geographical terms that will be used throughout this paper which are mainly, space, place and identity.
Space in geography is often used in doing spatial analysis. There are many definitions of space available in the different literatures. However, in the context of this paper, we will be looking at Cognitive Space. Cognitive Space is often used when space is shaped by human’s values and thinking. It is bounded by settings which comprises the identities and relations people have with it. Hence, neither space nor place can exist without one another. (Agnew, 2011; Furland, 2008; Mazúr & Urbánek, 1983; Horodniceanu, n.d) According to Edward Relph’s book titled Place and Placelessness (1980), he defined place as “fusions of human and nature order and are the significant centers of our immediate experiences of the world”(p. 141). In order words, place is somewhere where an individual or group has a strong sense of attachment to, creating a sense of identity with the place. (Monnet, 2011; Hauge, 2007; Tuan, 2001; Seamon, 1996; Relph, 1980) In short, space, place and identity are often interlinked and one could not exist without another. Having said that, with a brief introduction to these key terms, we will move on to take a closer look at the issue mentioned.
History of Little India
Little India is not quite like how it is termed. It was never a designated ethnic enclave, dominated by one particular community, unlike Chinatown. However, under the development of Singapore and the cattle trading industry in the mid-1800s in Little India, it had attracted many Indian traders and laborers coming into Little India and eventually settling down there. The increasing growth of the Indian population during the 19th and 20th century led to the numerous cultural and religious landmarks such as Hindu temples that can still be observed today. By then, Little India was dominated by the Tamil-speaking south Indians. The commercial and retail activities catered specifically to this specific community grew rapidly. Even though it was predominantly occupied by the Indians, there were Chinese and Eurasians inhabitants as well. Hence, Little India is considered have a multi-ethnicity population and not just the Indian community. The diversity of population is showcased through the wide array of worship places in the area catering to the different communities and religions which can be found as architectural landmarks in Little India today. (Chang, 2000; URA, 1995; Wong, n.d)
Present situation
Fast forward to today’s context, it is undeniable there has been an increasing trend in the number of migrant workers coming into Singapore seeking for job opportunities. Based on the statistics obtained from the Ministry of Manpower Singapore, the number of work permits issued for the construction industry increased from 180,000 as of December 2007 to 306,500 in June 2013 (Ministry of Manpower, 2013). The number of foreign workers working in the construction industry had increased by close to 40% as of the figure in 2007. You might be wondering why the emphasis on migrant workers in the construction industry. This is because large percentage of them came from South Asian and shared a similar culture of the Indians. As such, Little India became a place where they gather during the weekends, converting public and private spaces in their own diaspora third spaces. (Yew, 2014) Their presence had also caused an undeniable change in the landscape of Little India. For instance, Bengali is now the second mostly widely seen and spoken language in Little India. There are also increasing numbers of Bengali restaurants selling Bengali cuisines and even retail shops selling Bengali products set up along the streets of Little India. The characteristics of a street in South Asian can be seen transported into the streets of Little India, replacing many of Little India’s very own characteristics. (Yew, 2014) This process of place-making is also known as personalization. It refers to putting a distinctive mark on a place and it can be in the form of physical changes or attitudinal changes. In this case, we can see that the influence of these migrant workers had created both tangible and intangible forms of personalization on Little India. (Garcia, 2012) The touch of personalisation further entice them into visiting Little India as based on the article “Home away from Home” by The Straits Times (2013), Little India provides them with the sense of homeliness, which they had left behind to seek job opportunities in Singapore. It is also estimated that the numbers of migrant workers going to Little India on Sundays can hit more than 30,000.
This increasing trend had caused tension to build up between them and the residents creating an insider-outsider dichotomy in Little India. (Chang, 2000) An insider refers to someone that has a sense of social belonging and is adapted to fit the space while an outsider, is someone who does not feel belonged and feels culturally out of place. According the Edward Relph (1980), there are different forms of insideness and outsideness. In the context of Little India, the residents themselves take up the identity as existential insiders. It is only possible for people who live in that place and had developed a strong sense of belonging and identity with it. The migrant workers on the other hand are incidental outsiders whereby the place was just a setting where they have their activities at. (Relph, 1980) As a result of the co-existence of these two communities in one place, one as an insider and the other as an outsider, a dichotomy will follow because of the different importance the place plays for them.
Residents, as insiders, will value the place much more than the migrant workers as the place provides them with a sense of belonging, attachment and identity and played an important role in their daily lives as it is the place where they live and play. The migrant workers on the other hand may only refer Little India as a place for them to gather over the weekends as it provides them the sense of homeliness. (Chan et al., 2013) Therefore, because of different importance Little India plays for the different community, certain behaviors or actions carried out by the “outsiders” in it may be deemed as unacceptable by the “insiders”. The unacceptance of the actions hence creates a tension build up between the two.
In addition, the sense of insideness and belonging the residents had of Little India also portrayed an implicit sense that they entitled more rights to the space compared to the “outsiders” and that these public spaces should not be “owned” by the “outsiders” during the weekends. However, no one actually legally owns these public spaces. (Yew, 2014) Hence, as a result of these prejudice ownership of rights of the residents and the tension built up overtime, these common spaces where these migrant workers tend to frequent in large numbers were constructed into social problems as their attempts in reclaiming of public spaces. (Yew, 2014; Chang, 2014; Berlenger et al. 2012; Garcia, 2012)
The increasing trend of tension build up could be seen from the increasing numbers of reports on the complaints residents had lodged on the migrant workers because of their misconduct. Most of the residents interviewed voiced that the presence of these migrant workers was a major issue that should be looked at. Many complained of their rowdiness under void decks, loitering and even claimed to feel unsafe. This is especially so after the recent riot that occurred in Little India in December 2013. (Yahoo, 2013; Lee, 2013; Gan, 2011; Chang, 2014)
However, I feel that besides the insider-outsider dichotomy inside Little India between the residents and migrant workers, the concept of “othering”, the marginalization of migrant workers in Singapore is highly applicable to the reason for tension build up as well. (Rubdy & Mckay, 2013; Vincent et al., 2006) Migrant workers coming into Singapore has always been seen as an “other” on Singapore landscapes and were marginalized by society. The preconceived stereotype the general public had of the migrant workers often associate it with the 3’Ds which are dirty, difficult and dangerous. (Yew, 2014; Rubdy & Mckay, 2013; Vincent et al., 2006) Hence, because of the jobs they are involved in, mostly construction, they are often seen as the “foreign, lowly and othered pariahs in society” (Rosanow, n.d). These perceptions could be due to the lack of exposure to these workers or even hearsay. Even though there were efforts made by the government, it is still not possible to erase the fundamental relationship between Singaporeans and the migrant workers that had built up for a long time. Hence, due to the preconceived stereotypes the general public had of migrant workers and the increasing numbers of migrant workers, it amplified the anxieties of alterity residents had of the migrant workers in Little India. This increasing sense of alterity is also one of the possible causes of insider-outsider dichotomy in the area, thus creating tension due to unacceptability. Hence, we can say that the issue of marginalization of foreign workers in general among Singaporeans had played a part in contributing to the formation of the insider-outsider dichotomy.
In conclusion, the increasing number of migrant workers coming into Singapore had created tension between the locals and them. Tension built up could be due to the preconceived idea people have of these workers and hence rejecting them placing their footsteps on Singapore’s landscape or becoming part of their “space”. This rejection can be seen through the insider-outsider dichotomy as mentioned above. These signs of tension between residents and migrant workers are not only observed in Little India. Places such as Lucky Plaza in Orchard Road and Golden Mile are areas that face similar issues like those in Little India where there is a constant build-up of tension because of the increasing number of migrant workers gathering in these areas. This tension will continue to grow if neither Singaporeans nor migrant workers are willing to change their mindsets. Singaporeans ought to keep an open mind about these migrant workers while the workers become more sensitive to their environment and the feelings of the residents. Singaporeans have to learn to appreciate their existence on Singapore landscapes, the role they play in our society and not judge them based on the work they are involved in. It is the only way to prevent continual build-up of tension as it is an undeniable fact that Singapore needs these workers to sustain its development.
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History of Riots of Los Angeles

For years, Los Angeles, California has been the home of social mayhem. From gang rivalry and racial injustice to job discrimination and police brutality, L.A. has earned one of the most menacing reputations on the West Coast. As a result of racial injustices, poor education, and high unemployment rates, riots are not strangers of L.A. Two of the most well known riots of L.A. are the Watts Riot and the Rodney King Uprising. Both riots were immediate reactions to police brutality. Now, when I hear the word “riot”, I think of a duration of about two days, three at the most. These two riots, however, lasted five and six days, respectively. Let’s take a trip back in time. First, to 1965, which was the year of the Watts Riot. Then, we’ll travel forward in time to 1992, the year of the Rodney King Uprising. The following events are recounted from a nurse, Ms. Robbie Wroten, who provided medical care to residents during these events.

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It was around 7:15 pm on August 11, and Ms. Wroten was preparing dinner for her three children. On the stove was a pot of green beans, a pot of mashed potatoes, and a frying pan with hot grease, ready to fry chicken. There’s a frantic knock at the door. It was Eli, one of Ms. Wroten’s neighbors, coming to tell her that Mark, Marquette Frye, had been arrested. And it wasn’t just Mark. It was also Mark’s brother, Ron, and their mother. The isles that warmed the mashed potatoes and the green beans now provided no heat. The grease that was prepared for the chicken was quickly poured back into its container. In a house coat and worn out bedroom shoes, Ms. Wroten rushed down to the corner of the street, just in time to see a mother and her two sons put in police cars. Surrounding the many police cars were angry residents of Watts, who had no problem expressing their disapproval of the family arrests. “It’s only ‘cuz they black”, Ms. Wroten recalled hearing. “They didn’t do nothing wrong”, another person yelled. And then, it started. A young African-American male picked up the largest rock he could find and hauled it at one of the police cars driving away. As more and more onlookers began to throw objects, Ms. Wroten ran back to her home and locked her doors. Praying for an end to the actions outside, Ms. Wroten continued to cook her dinner.
The next morning, Ms. Wroten woke up to advisories to stay indoors. She kept her children home from school. Later that day, Ms. Wroten had learned, from sources in the community, that what had happened the night before was only the beginning. News reports that night made residents of Watts aware that armed forces had been alerted and would be “called into action immediately”. Ms. Wroten called her younger sister to advise her to stay indoors. As she explained to her children what was going on, she prepared herself for what was about to happen.
By the third day, August 13th, residents were rioting all over Watts. Stores were vandalized, buildings were burned, and citizens were injured. Ms. Wroten was called to provide medical attention to residents. As she immersed herself into the crowded chaos, she found it hard to move from one place to another without witnessing glass bottles with fire-burning paper inside thrown into store windows. She looked to the left of her, and she saw people stealing whatever they could get their hands on. To her right, policemen were struggling to sustain one of the looters caught trying to steal a radio from an appliance store. There were mostly privately owned businesses that were burned. The rioters sought out to aim at white business owners and those who they felt had personally discriminated against them.
All around her, there was smoke from the burning buildings, soot from the fire extinguishers, and injured people lying on the ground. Equipped with a first aid kit from the hospital, Ms. Wroten began to help those that she could. She wrapped gauze around gushing wounds, applied sterile bandages to first degree burns, and applied antibiotics to surface cuts. Running back and forth between the hospital and the streets of Watts, she bought oxygen masks for those who were too weak to breathe and carried children to safe homes. Then, she went around from house to house, making sure that the women and children were doing fine. She recalled having to console one woman who thought that her son might have taken part in the rioting and the vandalism of one of the stores. Going to check on her own children, whom she had taken to her sister’s house, Ms. Wroten witnessed residents fighting police, residents attacking white motorists, and residents who were preventing firefighters from putting out some of the fires.
These, and similar, events continued throughout the day. At one point, Ms. Wroten recalls being unable to recognize herself when she looked in one of the few glass windows that had not been broken. Soot covered her entire body, from her hair to her shoes. She thought to herself, “It’s hard enough just trying to survive out here. How in the world could someone be concerned with stealing things from a store?”
As the night came, more and more armed forces appeared on the scene, attempting to control the rioters. Fire brigades were trying to put out fires, while guardsmen attempted to restore order in the streets. By the fourth day of the riots, officials were everywhere. The government had established a curfew to keep people from coming outside. Ms. Wroten recalls government officials standing in front of houses to ensure that no one disobeyed the rules of the curfew. It worked.
By Sunday, August 15, the officials had finally gotten the riots under control. Fires, vandalism, and looting had all ceased. Millions of dollars worth of damage were left as a result. Five years after the Watts Riots, Ms. Wroten recalls that the neighborhood was still scarred from the events of 1965. Burned buildings that were once prosperous before the riots remained bleak. Lots remained empty, and hope of restoration subsided. Many people left Watts, either in search of better living conditions, or afraid of a reoccurrence. Ultimately it was identified that the arrest of the Frye family was not the solitary reason of the Watts Riots. Some underlying reasons were high unemployment, inferior living conditions, and poor schooling. Little efforts were made to change these attributes, and therefore, Watts still has many of these issues today.
In 1992, Ms. Wroten witnessed another riot in South Central, L.A., the Rodney King Uprising. Rodney King, an African-American male, had been violently attacked by four white police officers shortly after he led police on a high speed chase. The beating had been caught on tape. Charged with assault and use of excessive force, a jury, which was predominantly white, acquitted the police officers. The riots began shortly after the verdict was passed. Ms. Wroten remembered being on her way to work when the riots began. She described the scene as a “war zone”. She noted that, contrary to reports and popular belief, African- Americans were not the only participants of the riots. She said that there were many Hispanics causing upheaval as an outcry of the discrimination they were subjected to. As is the case with the Watts Riots, there was not solitary reason for this uprising. The once all African-American community was threatened by the newly inhabitant Hispanic population. Residents were full of anger and it was as if everyone felt discriminated against.
Ms. Wroten also remembered the attack on Reginald Denny, which occurred about three hours after the riots began. In the words of Ms. Wroten, Reginald Denny was in the “wrong place at the wrong time.” He was a truck driver who was making a delivery a few blocks away from where he was dragged out of his truck and attacked by a gang of residents. He was hit in the head with concrete and cinder block until he was unconscious. This attack happened as a result of the hatred toward the White population in Los Angeles. Though she did not witness the Fidel Lopez beating, she was told about it. Lopez was attacked minutes after Denny had been rescued. He was also pulled from his truck and attacked. He was robbed of a substantial amount of money. His head had been cracked open by a car stereo, and one of his ears was partially cut off. Then, the whole front side of his body was spray painted black, including his genitals. Ms. Wroten believes this attack was geared towards the Hispanic community.
Similar to the Watts Riots, she witnessed looting, vandalism, and stores being set afire. She recalled the military coming into the community to restore order. They established curfews and prevented residents from travelling at will. For a while, no one could leave or enter South Central, Los Angeles, for fear that another riot would ensue. She comments that unlike the Watts Riots, the community rebounded quickly. Within about a day of military authority, the riots were over and the angered community began to return to a peaceful one. She and most of her family attended the peace rally that was held on that Saturday. She said she was very glad to see how many people were in attendance. She described it is “a whole bunch of people”.
Though the riots were declared over by the sixth day, there were still a few random acts of violence and threatening incidents that occur a couple days after. For this reason, the National Guard remained present in South Central for another two weeks.
Historically, Los Angeles, California has suffered from poor education, high unemployment, racial injustices, and police brutality. Even today, some of those conditions have not changed. Los Angeles is still attempting to recover from the tragedies that happened years ago. They say that history repeats itself, but this is one instance in which I really hope it doesn’t. I hope that twenty years from now, when I assign my students this project, they will be able to report that Los Angeles has made a complete turnaround, and that the things of the past, stay in the past.