You are here

None of us are free until all of us are free

Carolyn Egan

July 8, 2019

This is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, often said to be the birth of the gay liberation movement in North America. Things change when they can no longer stay the same, and that night in a small bar in New York City history was made when members of an oppressed minority, led by trans folks and people of colour, fought back.

The NYPD, like police in most of the country, would often enter “gay bars” to harass, humiliate, assault and arrest those that they felt to be living outside the social norms of the time. But that night was different, suddenly someone threw a rock from Sheridan Park at the police on Christopher Street, another called out for help when they were being arrested, and then it happened, everyone started fighting back. For those involved it was an exhilarating experience, standing up to the repression they had been subjected to for years.

It was an era of tremendous social change: the Black Power movement, the women’s movement, the movement against the Viet Nam war were radicalizing people of all ages, but particularly the young. The system was being questioned in fundamental ways and there were mass demonstrations taking place that brought millions into the streets.

This gave confidence to those who previously felt that they were alone, isolated and marginalized. Homophobia and heterosexism were rampant in society, and many were closeted for fear of losing their jobs and their families.

A slogan that was used at the time, “none of us are free until all of us are free” spoke to the solidarity that was building among movements. Those that stood up the night of June 28th, 1969 became part of the history that everyday people make when they take on the exploitation and oppression that capitalism maintains.

Today, with the rise of the right worldwide we are seeing an increase in Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, and, bigotry of all sorts including attacks on LGBTQ communities. There are horrific examples in countries like Brazil but we are seeing it in Canada as well. The statistics show that hate crimes are increasing, including violence. The extremist groups of the right want to turn back the clock and once again have oppressed people living in fear.

Governments encouraging bigots

Governments are working hand in hand with them as we saw when the Progressive Conservatives in Ontario tried to reverse the new sex education curriculum which was teaching tolerance and respect in our schools. This gives encouragement to homophobes to unleash their hate and their violence.

We saw this violence exhibited recently at Pride events. In Hamilton, Ontario homophobic “street preachers” were joined by far right groups and attacked participants, assaulting those standing up to them. This bigotry and violence is being seen more and more, in an attempt to reverse the gains that people have made through struggle over the past decades.

In Toronto on Pride weekend, which was celebrating Stonewall, a right wing group PEGIDA – which holds strong anti-immigrant and homophobic views – held a rally near City Hall spewing hate. Over three hundred people came out to oppose it. They included members of faith communities, trade unionists from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the United Steelworkers, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, a contingent from the Dyke March, and many young people.

The bigots were greatly outnumbered, and their message was drowned out by the strong voices of those who stood up together against oppression. This solidarity is a concrete example of what was meant by the decades old slogan, “none of us are free until all of us are free”. It was a fitting action for the anniversary of Stonewall.


Featured Event



Visit our YouTube Channel for more videos: Our Youtube Channel
Visit our UStream Channel for live videos: Our Ustream Channel