Silver Lake remembers The Black Cat protests

SILVER LAKE — Well over 100 people attended a Saturday night reenactment of The Black Cat gay rights protest, which took place 50 years ago outside a Sunset Boulevard gay bar. It is regarded as the nation’s first major gay rights demonstration.

Tonight’s marchers held up signs with some of the same messages presented in 1967 — “End Illegal Entrapment” and “Peace in Silverlake”  as well as new messages — “Love Trumps Hate — that reflect the events of today.

City leaders, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, Controller Ron Galperin and  Councilman Mitch O’Farrell — who represents Silver Lake — participated in the reenactment and rally outside of the former Black Cat Tavern.  Gay patrons celebrating New Year’s Eve in 1967 at the Black Cat were arrested and beaten during a police raid. The demonstration was held several weeks later outside the same bar to protest police brutality and support the civil rights of gays — two years before New York’s well-known Stonewall Riots.

The Black Cat eventually closed, and the same space later housed a Latino gay bar, Le Barcito, for several years before closing in 2011. The following year a new restaurant opened under The Black Cat name and features historic photos of 1967 demonstration. In 2008, the city declared the building a historic landmark.

During Saturday night’s 50th anniversary tribute, Alexei Romanoff, one of the organizers of the 1967 protest, remarked on the dramatic changes in the decades since.  “A police officer [tonight] shook my hand and said “thank you,”‘ Romanoff told the crowd, which spilled out of a parking lot and into the street during the anniversary rally.

“It’s going to be …. on your shoulders to carry the fight forward,” Romanoff told the crowd.

Courtesy ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives/USC Libraries

A photo posted by Jason Wise (@jasonjourneyman) on

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