Recently obtained New York City Police Department reports reveal new, important details about what the police called an “Unusual Occurrence” at the Stonewall Inn -- the rebellion provoked by a police raid on the gay bar that took place 40 years ago this month.
The newly revealed documents, created early on the morning of the rebellion’s start, June 28, 1969, provide an immediate, palpable sense of the event that has come to symbolize the beginning of the modern movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights and liberation.
Reproduced in facsimile with transcriptions, nine pages of the NYPD records are published for the first time on OutHistory.org at: Stonewall Riot Police Reports, June 28, 1969
*Officer Charles Broughton of the 1st Division arrested Raymond Castro, Marilyn Fowler and Vincent DePaul, charging them with acting together to “shove and kick the officer.” This is the first time that Fowler and DePaul have been named and documented as riot participants. Fowler’s name is extremely significant, since no other woman’s arrest has been so far been documented, and numbers of witnesses attributed the riot’s intensifying to the arrest and resistance of an unnamed butch lesbian. (Castro is named as a participant in David Carter’s Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution. OutHistory.org also includes: Raymond Castro Interviewed by Jonathan Ned Katz: June 16, 2009.)
*Police officer Charles Holmes of the 6th Precinct was treated at nearby Saint Vincent’s Hospital after being bitten on the right wrist by a Stonewall rioter. Biting has not earlier been documented as a Stonewall resistance tactic.
*Officer Andrew Scheu of the 6th Precinct charged Wolfgang Podolski with resisting arrest and with striking an “officer with [a] rolled newspaper causing him to fall to ground fracturing his wrist.” This is the first documented reference to Podolski, a waiter or writer (the report is unclear), as a riot participant. A rolled up newspaper has not earlier been documented as a resistance weapon.
*Officer Gail Lynch, of the 5th Precinct, charged that Thomas Staton interfered with an officer making an arrest “by throwing assorted objects [and] while with others did become very loud and refused to comply.” Staton has not earlier been named and documented as a riot participant. Lynch has not earlier been named as one of the women police officers at the scene. The newly obtained records for the first time provide the full names of several other officers involved in the riot.
*An unfortunate Volkswagen owner complained to officer Robert Hansen of the 6th Precinct that her car, parked near the riot scene, had been “stomped” on during the disturbance and sustained damage to the roof, hood, and rear.
*The reports also document the charge by Officer Gilbert Weisman of the 6th Precinct that David Van Ronk, “Actor” (he was actually a well-known folksinger) “Did assault the officer about the face with an unknown object.” The heterosexual Van Ronk was arrested, handcuffed, taken into the Stonewall, and later taken away in a patrol wagon. He eventually pleaded guilty to “harassment,” a violation, and was later sued by Weisman for assault, and paid the officer a fine.
Seven pages of these NYPD records were obtained in May 2009 by Jonathan Ned Katz, Director of OutHistory.org, in consultation with historian David Carter, and two additional pages were obtained in 1988 by the late Michael Scherker, under the New York State Freedom of Information Law. In the documents obtained by Katz, for the first time the names of those arrested are not blacked out, providing the public and historians with important new evidence about the rebellion’s participants. None of the nine NYPD reports made available on OutHistory.org have earlier been published.
Katz asks that anyone with any knowledge of the persons arrested or charged, or any knowledge of the police officers named, contact him at: email@example.com.
Any information about arrestees Vincent DePaul, Marilyn Fowler, Wolfgang Podolski, and Thomas Staton would be “greatly appreciated,” says Katz, and any data on Marilyn Fowler is of “special interest.”
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall resistance, OutHistory.org is also republishing novelist and essayist Edmund White’s eyewitness letter about the riots, written to friends a few days after the rebellion, and playwright Martin Sherman’s recollection of the resistance. These documents have not before been available on line. See: Edmund White: Letter to Ann and Alfred Corn, July 8, 1969 and Martin Sherman: "A Hot Night in June," November 1994.
OutHistory.org is the freely accessible, community-created website on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and, yes, heterosexual history. It is produced by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York Graduate Center under a grant from the Arcus Foundation and donations from individuals.
OutHistory.org is unique in encouraging members of the LGBTQ and heterosexual communities to help write the histories of those communities. “Fight Against Forgetting” is one of the website’s mottos. Major LGBTQ scholars also contribute to the site. OutHistory is also holding a Since Stonewall Local Histories Contest in which users are encouraged to create an exhibit about the history of LGBTQ their town, village, county, city or state over the past 40 years.
Events commemorating the Stonewall 40th are listed on OutHistory.org at: Stonewall 40th Anniversary, June 1969-June 2009. Among these, Stonewall Was a Riot! a fundraiser for OutHistory.org, will be held at the Stonewall Inn on Monday, June 22, 8-10 pm, and will feature performers riffing on life since 1969. Space is limited and reservations may be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. A donation of $20 is requested.
Jonathan Ned Katz