LGBTQ activists document how they translated oppression into “joyous” rebellion in a trailer for Generation Woodstock, an upcoming ABC News special about the late Sixties counterculture movement that spawned both the titular music festival and the Stonewall Uprising.
“I had worked late that night, walked up Christopher Street, and I saw a police car in front of the Stonewall,” eyewitness Jim Fouratt says in the clip — recounting the origins of the violent confrontations that occurred in late June 1969, when patrons of New York City’s Stonewall Inn gay bar rallied to fight back against police. “I thought, ‘What’s going on here? There’s maybe 30 or 40 people gathered in the street.”
Mark Segal, Stonewall veteran and president of the National Gay Newspaper Guild, recalls another policeman coming outside and instigating an altercation. “[He] said something to one of the queens, and one of the queens screamed something back at him, and that’s where it all began,” he says of the incident, which led to broken windows and police calling for reinforcements.
“There was supposed to have been a shoe thrown or there was a brick thrown or someone threw off a molotov cocktail,” adds Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a transgender-rights activist. “We were fighting, and it was for our lives.”
Reports of the clash varied, with crowd sizes ranging from 100 to 500. But Segal maintains that the message of the uprising was clear, regardless of the numbers.
“What happened that night that made it different from any other night its hat we’d been witnessing for months the counterculture of the 1960s coming to a head,” he says. “But the antiwar movement was very violent and angry — we were joyous. We were so happy that night because we were fighting back, and we’d never done so before … We all decided to break off the shackles of 2,000 years of oppression. And that night, the police represented that oppression of religion, family, church, every single thing in society that hated us. It was out loud, proud and gay!”
The hour-long episode, which airs Tuesday, May 21st at 10 p.m. ET, also explores how the era’s social and political tension inspired Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld to create the iconic Woodstock festival in upstate New York. The documentary — which airs ahead of the fest’s 50th anniversary — also highlights the myriad challenges and mishaps that Lang and Kornfeld faced along the way.