By, TYLER HELMS, Shelby, North Carolina, USA
Stanford Summer Humanities Institute, 2015
Professor Dan Edelstein
Graduate Teaching Assistant: Sarah Grandin
In the case of all oppression and civil rights violations, there comes a point of explosion, a point where the people refuse to be suppressed and decide to make their voices heard. This is the case for the Stonewall Riots and The Boston Tea Party. While they are distinctly different social and political events, they are held together by three parallels: a similar trajectory of events, suppressed people who wanted their voices heard, and long lasting political influence. Both events followed the path of oppression, explosion, suppression, and long standing impact.
While the Stonewall Rioters were lacking social rights, they too, much like the colonists, demanded political rights. And even though both movements were quickly suppressed by brute force, nothing was able to stop the impact of their actions, impacts still felt today.
When humans leave a state of nature, it is necessary for them to create both a society and a government.  Society is a necessary good, while government is a necessary evil. Government is rooted in, and gains power from society; without society, government cannot function. However, governments often abuse their power and become tyrannical because they have the ability to punish citizens.
Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.
Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil in its worst state an intolerable one; 
In the case of revolutions and uprisings, the people have a right to rebel whenever they feel they are no longer equally protected or represented; they have a right to dissolve their old government and establish one that favors them:
Whensoever therefore the legislative shall transgress this fundamental rule of society; and either by ambition, fear, folly or corruption, endeavour to grasp themselves, or put into the hands of any other, an absolute power over the lives, liberties, and estates of the people; by this breach of trust they forfeit the power the people had put into their hands for quite contrary ends, and it devolves to the people, who. have a right to resume their original liberty, and, by the establishment of a new legislative, (such as they shall think fit) provide for their own safety and security, which is the end for which they are in society. 
It is the duty of the people, the basis of society, to determine whenever it acceptable to revolt. Both the Stonewall Riots and the Boston Tea Party occurred when the people felt that their government no longer represented their interests.
While both the Stonewall Riots and the Boston Tea Party are events where built up stress and tension explode, leaving long lasting political and social impacts, the events developed and played out in two completely different spheres. On the surface, the two events have nothing in common. One was in Boston Massachusetts on December 16, 1773, while the other was in New York City on June 28, 1969. One was an act to overthrow an oppressive government, while the other was an attempt to be seen as normal human beings. One would set the stage for mass political change, while the other put a civil rights movement in motion.
While the Boston Tea Party is commonly known as the event where colonists dressed up as Indians and dumped tea into the Boston Harbor, there is much more to the story. The colonists actually loved the king and did not want to form their own country. They just wanted to be heard: “We beg leave further to assure your Majesty, that notwithstanding the sufferings of your loyal colonists, during the course of the present controversy, our breasts retain too tender a regard for the kingdom from which we derive our origin, to request such a reconciliation as might in any manner be inconsistent with her dignity or her welfare.” 
The Boston Tea Party was not only the start of a revolution, but a revolutionary act of defiance. It was a jab at the top tier of government and the actions of the colonists were revolutionary in nature. Never before had anyone taken such a unique approach to protest; instead of simply refusing to pay for the tea and waiting for the ship to leave, they painted themselves like Indians, illegally boarded the ship, and dumped barrels of tea into the harbor. The originality and extremity of this event shows the true frustration and fighting spirit of the colonists. After a prolonged period of excessive acts, laws, and taxes, it was time for the colonists to assert themselves. No longer would they sit silently and take the oppression, they would take action.
Shortly after the Boston Tea Party, the colonists were suppressed by the government and the colonies experienced greater enforcement of new laws. The British Government created a new set of acts for the colonists to abide by, the Coercive Acts. Under these new acts, Boston harbor was shut down until colonists paid for the tea, a debt that was never settled, and local governments in Massachusetts were suspended.
And whereas, in the present condition of the said town and harbour, the commerce of his Majesty's subjects cannot be safely carried on there, nor the customs payable to his Majesty duly collected; and it is therefore expedient that the officers of his Majesty's customs should be forthwith removed from the said town: ... be it enacted ..., That from and after June 1, 1774, it shall not be lawful for any person or persons whatsoever to lade, put, or cause to procure to be laden or put, off or from any quay, wharf, or other place, within the said town of Boston.
But while colonists faced greater suppression, nothing could stop the mindset that it was time for a revolution. Politically, the colonists created the First Continental Congress and a militia in order to assert their rights. Socially, people began thinking more critically of the king and began thinking of themselves as Americans. While the king may have succeeded in oppressing the people and making them suffer for the Tea Party, ultimately, he gave the colonists another reason to fight for independence.
Stonewall, a social revolution neglected from most history books, is a revolutionary movement that started at the grassroots level. In the 1960’s, police regularly raided gay bars and clubs. Usually, the owner would make the necessary payments to the police and the patrons would consent to the arrests/fines, but not the people of Stonewall on June 28, 1969. Something was different, something new happened. The people fought back. On June 29, 1969, the New York Times wrote an article on the events that played out at stonewall over the night:
“Hundreds of young men went on a rampage in Greenwich Village shortly after 3 a.m. yesterday after a force of plainclothes men raided a bar that the police said was well known for its homosexual clientele. Thirteen persons were arrested and four policemen were injured.
The young men threw bricks, bottles, garbage, pennies and a parking meter at the policemen, who had a search warrant authorizing them to investigate reports that liquor was sold illegally at the bar, the Stonewall Inn, 53 Christopher Street, just off Sheridan Square." 
By merely standing up for themselves and their individual rights, the people of Stonewall created an unexpected movement. In the wake of their demand for social justice, they created political activism for gay rights. This new resistance spread like wildfire. In the following days, the LGBT community took to the streets of New York; they passed out flyers and leaflets calling for an end to police oppression and brutality. These demonstrations continued peacefully for the first days, but eventually the police regrouped and decided to put down the movement. Although their immediate six day riots were eventually suppressed and extinguished, the legacy wasn’t. Everything changed from that point on. A movement for LGBT rights was started, a movement that continues to this day. As Bonnie J. Morris has assessed, “Stonewall is still considered a watershed moment of gay pride and has been commemorated since the 1970s with ‘pride marches’ held every June across the United States.”  No longer would gays and lesbians be pushed and mocked; instead, they began to embrace who they were and use this to their advantage. This was not a conventional revolution; the people didn’t overthrow the police and create a new government. However, it was revolutionary. It was something that happened for the first time, but it would not be that last. A movement was created and the mindset of the people began to change.
The June 28th raid of Stonewall had all the right ingredients to form a movement. First, it was raided at 1 am on a Friday night, the busiest time for the bar. It was easy for an angry crowd to form outside of the bar because so many people were affected. Second, patrons were even more irritable because Stonewall was raided earlier in the week. Third, the incident at Stonewall wasn’t a singular case. Earlier police had raided bars and clubs in Chicago, destroying everything they could. Finally, the bust of Stonewall was just another crackdown on local gay hangouts; previously the police tore down or closed three other meetup spots. People were fed up. As police tried to arrest several transvestites, they all talked back and resisted. Morty Manford, a patron at Stonewall on the night of the riots, noticed the need for change, “‘Damn,’ he wondered. ‘Why do we have to put up with this shit?’”  The LGBT community just wanted an equal right to go out, have fun, and be themselves.  It was not in the minds of the people to overthrow the police force, campaign for presidency, or create a new society; the people were content with living in New York City, the most populous gay area, they just wanted to be respected and understood.
The Stonewall Riots lasted for six days before being put down by police, but this was enough time for political and social influence to spread. Police tried their best to break apart the riots and extinguish the revolutionary spirit, but each night more people showed up with even more determination for change. Eventually, a riot-control squad was sent in to disperse the crowd, but they continued to reconvene. Since the LGBT community persevered despite the oppression, new civil rights groups were formed and people began to openly embrace who they are, “In the wake of the riots, intense discussions about civil rights were held among New York's LGBT people, which led to the formation of various advocacy groups such as the short-lived Gay Liberation Front, which was the first group to use the word ‘gay’ in its name, and a city-wide newspaper called Gay.”  Instead of creating a negative impression of the LGBT community, the opposite occurred. In fact, public ideals shifted in favor of the LGBT community with even more protests, marches, and support groups springing up from New York to San Francisco. 
Stonewall ended an era in which the police abused and took advantage of a certain minority. For far too long the police had unfairly targeted gay bars and people and eventually the people had enough, and fought back: “For Manford, the breaking of the glass was ‘a dramatic gesture of defiance… We had just been kicked and punched around symbolically by the police. They weren’t doing this at heterosexual bars.’”  On a similar note, the Tea Party revolted against the strict government control of colonies. The Tea Party was the moment where the colonists decided that they would no longer be taxed without their approval. Colonists were unhappy with the unjust taxation and agreed with the view of Isaac Barré, “Keep your hands out of the pockets of the Americans, and they will be obedient subjects.” 
Both the Boston Tea Party and the Stonewall Riots are instances where built-up tensions reached a boiling point. Stonewall, like the Tea Party, was preceded by a long span of unequal rights and unjustified governmental force. Unequal rights was an important driving factor for both homosexuals and colonists: the colonists had no representatives in Parliament, and homosexuals did not have the right to marry, congregate, openly represent themselves, and advocate for their rights. Similarly to unequal rights, unjust governmental force also mobilized the drive for change. Prior to the Boston Tea Party, colonists had just witnessed the Boston Massacre. Although this event was not a major massacre, it was just enough to give the colonists something to fight against. In the homosexual community, violence was much more common. In the 1960’s it was a normal occurrence for police to beat up, and often murder, innocent individuals.
Even though the colonists attempted to stay true and loyal to their king, their demands fell on deaf ears. Their petitions went unanswered, and tensions grew higher. In a petition to the king the colonists wrote: “To what are we to attribute this Treatment? If to any secret Principle of the Constitution, let it be mentioned; let us learn, that the Government, we have long revered, is not without its Defects, and that while it gives Freedom to a Part, it necessarily enslaves the Remainder of the Empire.”  After an extended period of unanswered requests, the colonists felt an even stronger drive for revolution, and were left with no choice but to rebel. Whenever a country, community, ethnicity, or group of people feel ignored, abused, and/or neglected, they will take steps to be heard. The Boston Tea Party was a moment of great strength and contemplation, in which the colonists set the stage for not only political change, but social change.
Even though the rioters at Stonewall never wanted to overthrow the government, and the rebels in Boston only wanted equal representation in Parliament, both events have social and political overlap in that each had unexpected results. It is true that the LGBT community did want some political change. They wanted the police to stop abusing them, government officials to treat them equally under the law, and their own voice in government. Although it was mainly a social drive for equal rights, it was also a drive for equal rights under the law. The LGBT community needed to have government on their side in order for anything to change. Without the social movement of Stonewall, the national political movement for same sex marriage we have today would not exist. The actions of the patrons at Stonewall were revolutionary, and although they did not overthrow a government and create a new country, a revolution for same-sex rights was created.
The Boston Tea Party was intended to be a political revolution, but it had unexpected social effects. Even though colonists wanted to be represented in their government, something new happened. Something changed in the minds of the people; they began to see themselves as ‘Americans.’ The time period from 1700-1775 was when most of the changes occurred. While the colonists were still British citizens by law, they were Americans in their minds. While the movement was a slow, gradual process, it took root around the time period of the Boston Tea Party. This newfound individuality will become crucial in the path to revolution; in order for colonists to fight against the British government, they have to deeply and truly believe that they are Americans. 
The world we have today is the result of a plethora of revolutions. A certain group of people devote their whole life to a revolution, hoping for a better future for the generations to come. All it takes for a revolution to occur is a spark and a moment where people are pushed to the edge. The government has to ask for too much or give too little, and the people have to create their own opinions. This dissent is crucial. People have to ask themselves if their government is working for society, or for itself. A revolution must first occur in the minds of society. Once this happens, there is no turning back; from that point on, the people and the government are in a state of war. Usually the movement starts out small; one singular person will refuse to obey a law, a tax/fine will go unpaid, someone will fight back against the police, or someone will set himself/herself aflame. In order for a revolution to be successful, there needs to be a martyr; an extremist that takes it a little too far, but gives the rest of society the motivation it needs to carry on with the revolution. Once the idea of civil disobedience spreads and more people slowly erode the authority of the government, riots take place. Whether it is a small picket line, or a mass congregation in front of a government building, the riots are the most important part. What makes them so important is that they get the attention of everyone; even the people who have no clue about the dissent will catch on. But most importantly, riots will get the attention of the government. Once the riots break out, all the people have to do is stay strong, and wait for change. While both the Boston Tea Party and the Stonewall Riots are strikingly similar in their trajectories, so is every other revolution. History repeats itself. Whether people are overthrowing their government, or fighting back at the police, the steps they take are the same. Every revolution is connected in this case.
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