July 25, 2021 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

In 1971, a Queer Revolution Was Dawning on the Streets of Los Angeles

Last year at this time, a weary nation was gearing up to launch a series of significant, country-wide protests on Inauguration day. The resulting marches in Washington, New York, and Downtown Los Angeles made the country sit up and take notice, setting the tone of a politically-charged year of feminist victories and queer triumphs.

As significant as last year’s marches were, they didn’t come out of nowhere. Los Angeles has a long history of early-in-the-year political protests organized by minority citizens who, newly energized by the New Year, get together to stick it to the current regime.

We’ve spoken about L.A.’s history of queer resistance, from the famous pre-Stonewall Black Cat protests to the Christopher Street West Parade (later to become the L.A. Pride Parade) to the “Gay-Ins” at Griffith Park in the 1960s and 1970s. But it was 47 years ago, in 1971, that L.A.’s queer and Chicanx communities came together to hold the LAPD accountable for what had been the very violent year of 1970.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons.
The Silver Lake Black Cat Protest in 1967 marked L.A.’s first queer anti-police brutality protest.

On August 29, 1970, three Los Angeles citizens lost their lives during the Chicano Moratorium march and Vietnam War protest in East L.A. After the death of L.A. Times journalist Ruben Salazar via tear gas pellet, the community turned to the L.A. Sheriff’s Department for answers. Though the Sheriff’s Department maintained that Salazar’s death, along with other protestors at the August 29 march, was accidental, the community was not satisfied. Salazar’s death prompted the famous Hunter S. Thompson to write “Strange Rumblings in Aztlan” for Rolling Stone, a piece that chronicled how the sudden, violent killing of Salazar changed a peaceful protest into a chaotic scene and mobilized the Chicanx community into action.

Photo: ONE Archives.
Protesters in February of 1971 held posters calling out police brutality against LGBTQ+ citizens.

It was because of the shocking events of August 29 that the January 31, 1971 protest against police brutality took place. On that day, over 7,000 citizens marched on East L.A. to be greeted by armed policemen ready to open fire. At the end of the march, they did, wounding many and arresting over 100 citizens.

The January 31 protest and its violent aftermath were acknowledged by many as marking the end of the Chicano Movement on the 1960s and ‘70s. However, the legacy of the Brown Berets paved the way for a year of community protests against police brutality and government corruption. After the 31st, LGBTQ+ Angeleans took to Hollywood Boulevard to protest police brutality and the high number of arrests (and violent treatment) of gay men in the years previous. Later that year, weeks of anti-war protests would lead to a gigantic march on Washington led by the Mayday Tribe, a group of 25,000 students and activists whose slogan read:  “If the government won’t stop the war, we’ll stop the government.”

A year beforehand, in 1970, the first L.A. Gay Pride Parade had made a splash on the streets of Hollywood. It had also led to 14 arrests for same-sex kissing (then illegal in public) and beatings of protesters by the police in attendance. By 1971, L.A.’s queer community knew how to organize in a way that couldn’t be ignored. When they took on police violence that February, they were helping to cement a new standard of non-violent protesting, started in part by the Chicano movement, that would take the community into a new era of civil rights battles.

Related Posts

Patrick O’Connell, AIDS Activist, Dead At 67

May 6, 2021

May 6, 2021

Patrick O’Connell, a venerable AIDS activist and creator of the iconic red ribbon creating awareness about the disease, has died...

Ivy Bottini – WeHo Icon & LGBTQ Advocate Dies

March 14, 2021

March 14, 2021

Ivy Bottini an artist, mother and a legendary activist, devoting over 50 years to the feminist & LGBTQ  struggle for...

Black History Month: Celebrating Bayard Rustin

January 31, 2021

January 31, 2021

Bayard Rustin was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights. Due to criticism...

WeHo Will Commemorate MLK Jr. Day With Virtual Donation Drive

January 17, 2021

January 17, 2021

In January 2021, the City of West Hollywood will continue its tradition of joining hundreds of communities across the country...

City Of WeHo Celebrates Veterans Day 2020

November 8, 2020

November 8, 2020

The City of West Hollywood will honor veterans and active members of the United States Armed Forces during a virtual...

USC One Archives to Host Screening of Film on Black Trans Woman to Honor Black History Month

February 1, 2020

February 1, 2020

Meet Mary Jones, a black transgender woman born in New York in 1803. Described as a “man-monster” in the press. ...

VIDEO: South Coast Chorale’s Tribute to Gay & Civil Rights Activist

January 24, 2020

January 24, 2020

67 years ago, openly gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin was arrested on a discriminatory, anti-gay “lewd conduct” charge for...

Honoring Gay Rights & Civil Rights Activist Bayard Rustin

January 21, 2020

January 21, 2020

On this day in history 67 years ago, gay civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin was arrested on a discriminatory, anti-gay...

GAY LA: When Catherine Opie Ruled LA

November 14, 2019

November 14, 2019

By Henry Giardina In the first season of the original “L Word,” art plays a bizarrely large role. For a...

Documentary Honors Los Angeles’ LGBTQ+ Vets for Veterans Day

November 11, 2019

November 11, 2019

In honor of Veterans Day, some LGBT Senior Veterans at the Los Angeles LGBT Center shared their stories and experiences...

GAY LA – When Drag Was All the Rage (But Queerness Wasn’t)

August 6, 2019

August 6, 2019

Today, it’s not hard to find drag culture wherever you are. From VH1, to Netflix, to Twitter, the language of...

35th Anniversary for AIDS Walk Los Angeles

July 28, 2019

July 28, 2019

This week 35 years ago in history, actor Rock Hudson publicly announced that he had AIDS. He was one of...

GAY LA: The Fate of Damron Address Book?

July 14, 2019

July 14, 2019

Before AIDS, Airbnb and Grindr changed the face of gay life forever, there were limited ways of finding your people,...

Going Bak in Time with a Photographer

May 30, 2019

May 30, 2019

Spying a thirteen-year-old Sunny Bak, amongst a crowd of New York paparazzi, Elizabeth Taylor showed concern that the young photographer...

GAY LA: Their Name Still Spells “Lesbian”

May 29, 2019

May 29, 2019

When SCWU, or Southern California Women for Understanding, started up in 1976, it quickly became the largest lesbian society in...