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Silver Lake honors the 50th anniversary of a historic gay rights protest

Courtesy ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives/USC Libraries

SILVER LAKE –  It was 50 years ago this coming Saturday that hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Sunset Boulevard gay bar named the Black Cat to protest police brutality and entrapment of gays. Accounts of the day said it was a peaceful event, and photos show men, some dressed in coat and tie, and women holding up protest signs. While forgotten by many, the event is notable because it is regarded as the nation’s first major gay-rights protest – taking place two years before the better known Stonewall Riot in New York.

On Saturday, Feb, 11, the 50th anniversary of the protest will be honored with a re-enactment, celebration, march, political rally and dance party, according to officials with Council District 13.

The 1967 demonstration took place a few weeks after police raided the Sunset Boulevard bar during a New Year’s celebration, beating and dragging patrons into the street.

“Fifty years have passed since that first PRIDE demonstration on February 11, 1967,”  Alexei Romanoff, one of the organizers of the 1967 protest, said in a statement. “We, the American LGBTQ community, have made tremendous progress since then, but our struggle for full acceptance continues.  Nothing is more appropriate for this special occasion than to revisit the site, learn what happened and why, and join in rededicating ourselves to finish the work we began so many years ago.”

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

“As a resident of Silver Lake, I am proud of the legacy of those brave souls fighting for our rights in 1967,” said Daniel Henning, one of the organizers of this weekend’s event. “Most people don’t know that the first LGBT demonstration in the U.S. was here – in Silver Lake. It’s an important story to tell the next generation so they can make sure the rights we fought for so strongly continue into the future.”

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