Two years before the Stonewall riots in New York City, Silver Lake was the epicenter of a gay rights protest movement of its own. This weekend marks 50 years since demonstrators at the Black Cat Tavern took a stand and pushed back against anti-LGBT forces, and a rally will be held on the site to commemorate the events of 1967 and continue the movement today.
Black Cat Tavern had been open just two months when a party on New Year’s Eve of 1966 was raided by undercover officers who infiltrated the party and, when they saw same-sex couples kissing at midnight, police began a flurry of arrests. Ultimately, 14 patrons of the bar were arrested for “assault and public lewdness” and the police physically beat several of the individuals. A riot broke out and spilled into the street and neighboring bars.
The nascent but growing LGBT community in Los Angeles decided it was time for visible protest. In the weeks that followed the raid, organizers met to begin planning a large demonstration to be held at the Black Cat. The then-new PRIDE organization began publishing a newsletter called The Advocate where they disseminated details of the gathering—the same publication is still in print under that name today.
On February 11, 1967, an estimated 300 to 600 protestors—a very impressive turn-out for a gay rights protest in those days—surrounded the Black Cat in what would be remembered as a tense but ultimately peaceful protest against homophobic laws and police brutality. The event marked a turning point for the local gay rights movement and part of a growing national trend of LGBT resistance.
To celebrate the achievements of the last 50 years, City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell has scheduled a rally and party at the bar where it all took place which, since 2012, operates once again under the name Black Cat. After an outdoor rally in the parking lot, head inside for drinks and a fun 1960s-themed dance party surrounded by historic photos from the protest.
#BlackCat67 takes place Saturday, February 11, from 8pm to 2am at the Black Cat, 3909 W Sunset Blvd. Entry is free.
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