NYPD Surveillance of Lesbian and Gay Power

The Stonewall Riots that took place in the West Village at the end of June, 1969 mark the beginning of a movement for the basic visibility and full equality of all Americans regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The early morning raid on the Stonewall Inn was nothing new in itself, as the NYPD had been raiding and shutting down similar bars throughout the 1960s. Lesbian and gay New Yorkers had been increasingly responding to police harassment with acts of civil disobedience and activist journalism during the 1960s, but the scope of resistance at Stonewall was different. Another thing that was certainly different about Stonewall, though, was how it changed the NYPD’s views on gay and lesbian power in the City, as evidenced by their moving image surveillance logs. Before Stonewall, there is no mention in the NYPD records of film surveillance activities of groups agitating for gay, lesbian and transgender rights. After Stonewall, the NYPD began to identify not a specific group or individual activists for surveillance, but a broad movement that had begun to take hold: Gay Liberation.