Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Raymond Castro: death of a Stonewall veteran

From Miami Herald, 14 October 2010:

'Raymond Castro, a veteran of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion in New York City, died in his hometown of Madeira Beach, Florida on Saturday, October 9th. He was 68 years old and is survived by his husband of 31 years, Frank Sturniolo, 50. On June 27, 1969 Castro was inside the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, on the first night of the uprising and is documented as the only person arrested that evening who was known to be gay, according to historian David Carter.

Although police raids of gay-friendly bars were sadly common at the time, on that night people fought back. As two officers were escorting Castro out of the bar, the crowd shouted, "Let him go, let him go," and he pushed against the waiting patrol wagon with both feet, knocking the two cops to the ground. He was put in the back of the vehicle and detained, but was later released without charge. He hired a lawyer to resist the charge against him in court and also his lawyer represent an arrested lesbian who was in the patrol wagon with him. Typical of his generosity, he did not let the lesbian assist in paying the attorney who represented them. That night's events, including Castro's struggle against police, gave birth to the modern gay civil rights movement...

David Carter said that all the evidence he collected about the event made him sure that Castro's resistance to his arrest, taking place in public soon after the occurrence of the evening's tipping point--the unknown lesbian who fought the police outside the Stonewall Inn and twice escaped a patrol car she was placed into--helped guarantee that the resistance to the police raid became both massive and violent, and thus had the power to become a transforming symbol of LGBT consciousness: the Stonewall Riots.

Ray visited New York City in June to celebrate the 41st Anniversary of Stonewall and attend the 40th annual gay pride parade. The New York Daily News featured his story at that time, quoting Castro as saying: "A lot of people, especially the young ones, have no inkling what Stonewall is. They think Gay Pride is just a big party. None of this would have been possible if it wasn't for 1969. I had no idea that I was going to be involved in history-making... I would do it all over again."

More on Stonewall here... history was certainly made that night.

No comments: