Open main menu

Black Cat Tavern was an LGBT bar located at 3909 West Sunset Boulevard in the Sunset Junction neighborhood of the Silver Lake district in Los Angeles, California. In 1967 it was the site of one of the first demonstrations in the United States protesting police harassment of LGBT people, preceding the Stonewall riots by over two years.[3]

Black Cat Tavern
Black Cat Tavern is located in the Los Angeles metropolitan area
Black Cat Tavern
Location of Black Cat Tavern in the Los Angeles metropolitan area
Location3909 W. Sunset Blvd.
Coordinates34°05′32″N 118°16′47″W / 34.0921°N 118.2798°W / 34.0921; -118.2798Coordinates: 34°05′32″N 118°16′47″W / 34.0921°N 118.2798°W / 34.0921; -118.2798
Built1939
Architectural style(s)Art Deco
Governing bodyprivate
Designated2008[1][2]
Reference no.939

Contents

HistoryEdit

 
Scan of leaflet that was distributed by activists to mobilize protesters, February 1967

The bar was established in November 1966; two months later, on New Year's Eve, several plain-clothes LAPD police officers infiltrated the tavern.[4]

According to local gay newspaper Tangents, "the Black Cat was happy and hopping" before undercover police arrived and started beating patrons as they were ringing in the New Year: "There were colored balloons covering the ceiling ... and three glittering Christmas trees."[5] Moments later, “all hell broke loose.” [5] After arresting several patrons for kissing as they celebrated the occasion,[6] the undercover police officers began beating several of the patrons[7] and ultimately arrested fourteen patrons for "assault and public lewdness".[8]

Contrary to popular myth, there was no "riot" at the Black Cat, but a civil demonstration of 200 attendees to protest the raids was held on February 11, 1967. The demonstration was organized by a group called PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education) – founded by Steve Ginsberg – and the SCCRH (Southern California Council on Religion and Homophile).[8] The protest was met by squadrons of armed policemen.[4]

Two of the men arrested for kissing were later convicted under California Penal Code Section 647 and registered as sex offenders.[8] The men appealed, asserting their right of equal protection under the law, but the U.S. Supreme Court did not accept their case.[3] However, there were fundraising efforts that reached New York and San Francisco for the six convicted patrons – including Benny Baker and Charles Talley.

LegacyEdit

The raid and subsequent protests inspired publication of The Advocate, which began as a newspaper for the group Personal Rights in Defense and Education (PRIDE).[9] The January 1967 raid on the Black Cat Tavern and the August 1968 raid on The Patch together inspired the formation of the Metropolitan Community Church (led by Pastor Troy Perry).[10][11]

For some time "the Stonewall riots became central to gay collective memory while other events did not."[12] By pointing to critical moments in LGBT history that took place before 1969, historians continue to challenge the notion that the events at the Stonewall Inn marked the very first time LGBT folks "fought back instead of passively enduring humiliating treatment."[12] Indeed the 1959 Cooper Do-nuts Riot[13] and the 1966 Compton's Cafeteria riot predate the incidents at The Black Cat.

On November 7, 2008, the Black Cat site was declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.[8][14]

In 2014, queer Chicana artist Alma López and students in her "Queer Art in LA" class at UCLA painted a mural depicting the protests. The mural is located in the LGBTQ Studies offices in Haines Hall on the UCLA campus. [15]

Present dayEdit

After operating as a gay bar under several names (most recently Le Barcito catering to the Latino community), in November 2012 the site became a restaurant and bar named The Black Cat in memory of the earlier establishment. The new Black Cat caters to a general clientele, and there are photographs of the events of 1967 displayed inside.[16]

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ Department of City Planning. "Designated Historic-Cultural Monuments". City of Los Angeles. Archived from the original on 2010-06-09. Retrieved 2010-06-08.
  2. ^ Office of Historic Resources, Newsletter, January 2009.
  3. ^ a b Gay LA, Page 157, Authors Faderman & Timmons, University of California Press, copyright 2006
  4. ^ a b "Speaking Out". Johnrechy.com. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  5. ^ a b Baldwin, Belinda. "L.A., 1/1/67: the Black Cat riots." The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide 13.2 (2006): 28+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.
  6. ^ "Timeline of Homosexual History, 1961 to 1979". Tangentgroup.org. Archived from the original on 2014-05-11. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  7. ^ "Press Release regarding the 1966 raid on the Black Cat bar". The Tangent Group. Archived from the original on 2015-04-27. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  8. ^ a b c d HCM No. 939, 2009 Newsletter.pdf City of Los Angeles, Department of City Planning, "Los Angeles’ Newest Historic-Cultural Monuments", January 2009 v.3, no. 1, p. 6.Archived 2014-06-22 at Archive.today
  9. ^ Gay LA, Page 159, Authors Faderman & Timmons, University of California Press, copyright 2006
  10. ^ Gay LA, Page 163, Authors Faderman & Timmons, University of California Press, copyright 2006
  11. ^ "Letters from Camp Rehoboth - September 14, 2007 - PAST Out". Archived from the original on May 18, 2008.
  12. ^ a b Armstrong, E. A., and S. M. Crage. "Movements and Memory: The Making of the Stonewall Myth." American Sociological Review 71.5 (2006): 724-51. Web.
  13. ^ Lilly, Christiana (30 September 2016). "Los Angeles' Cooper Donuts gay riots sparked a revolution 10 years before Stonewall". The Pride LA. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  14. ^ "News article" (print ed.). Los Angeles Times. November 8, 2008.
  15. ^ Wolf, Jessica (July 17, 2017). "The Evolution of LGBTQ Studies at UCLA". UCLA Newsroom. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  16. ^ "A new (fancy) life for Silver Lake's Black Cat Tavern". The Eastsider LA. Retrieved 2013-07-01.