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City of Los Angeles commemorates the 1967 Black Cat Riots

The City of Los Angeles has unveiled a plaque commemorating the 1967 police riots at the Black Cat Tavern that ignited that city’s LGBTI community two years before Stonewall
The protest following the Black Cat Riots
Photo by ONE Archive

The City of Los Angeles has unveiled a plaque marking the location of the 1967 Black Cat Riots – one of the earliest examples of America’s LGBTI community standing up for themselves.

In the early hours of New Year’s Eve in 1967 a group of plain clothed police officers infiltrated the Black Cat Tavern in Silverlake, a newly established gay bar, and began arresting and beating patrons for kissing.

The violence spread to the nearby New Faces bar, where police beat two bartenders unconscious, and erupted into a riot in the surrounding area.

Police eventually arrested 16 people.

On February 11 that year 200 people marched against the police’s brutality – becoming the first LGBTI rights protest in California.

The protest was organized by a group called PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education) from which the term ‘gay pride’ would emerge.

The riots also spurred California’s LGBTI community to found The Advocate magazine which began life as a newspaper printed by PRIDE.

The City of Los Angeles declared the Black Cat Tavern a Historic Cultural Monument in 2008 but it is only now that a plaque has been erected at the site.

The plaque incorrectly identifies the Black Cat Tavern as the location of the first LGBTI rights demonstration in the United States.

That honor goes to the 1965 picketing of the White House by members of the Mattachine Society of Washington and lesbian group the Daughters of Bilitis.

The Black Cat Tavern is only the second place of LGBTI historical significance to be made an official  historical monument by the City of Los Angeles. Another plaque recognizes pioneering LGBTI activist Hary Hay and the Radical Fairies at the nearby Silverlake Steps.

The 3 June unveiling ceremony was attended by Alexei Romanoff – one of the organizers of the 1967 post-riot protests.

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