Their uprising against police was a major catalyst in the modern gay rights movement.
Now, people from around the world are descending on the city to celebrate.
“We have all experienced discrimination one way or another, especially within the fight to gay rights. And we have it much easier now because of what a group of people did here 50 years ago,” visitor Andres Ochoa told CBS2.
Bartender Tom Hanson remembers that night well.
“We heard the screaming coming in from that side. We knew it was another raid when we hear that, but we did not know that was the raid of all raids,” he said.
On June 28, 1969, the LGBTQ community fought back against police who routinely raided the Greenwich Village bar.
Before the riots, homosexuality was mostly forced underground.
“A CBS News survey shows that two out of three Americans look upon homosexuals with disgust, discomfort or fear,” one reporter says in an old news clip.
But five decades later, the community says the movement has come a long way, though there’s still more work to do. That’s why Stonewall continues to provide a forum for activism and remains a landmark in the gay liberation movement.
The New York Historical Society’s latest exhibition documents LGBTQ nightlife before and after the riots.
“We were just so honored to be able to come this year and see where it all started,” said one visitor.
A rally will be held to commemorate the anniversary from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight at Christopher Street & Waverly Place.