LGBT Rights Movement: The Patch Raid and Flower Power Protest

The Patch was a gay bar that opened in April 1968 on the Pacific Coast Highway in the Wilmington neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA [1].

Gay Rights Movement In 1960s America. Photo: Timetoast.com.

In the midst of the LGBT rights movement, The Patch was raided in August 1968 by Los Angeles police officers after a four-month-long battle within the community. Patrons responded to the raid by protesting in what became known as the 1968 Flower Power Protest against the Los Angeles Police [2]. This marked an important moment of the gay rights movement as “one of the first sites of resistance against police harassment of gay meeting places and establishments” [3].

The Patch Raid and Flower Power Protest Against the Los Angeles Police Department

The Patch, formerly located at 610 W. Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles, CA. Photo: The Los Angeles Advocate, July 1968, page 19.

Because The Patch offered live music and allowed men to dance together, it became one of the most popular gay bars in Los Angeles once it opened in 1968. However, the police commission opposed many of the bar’s policies, and while they did not make arrests, they frequently visited to ensure patrons followed the law, ticketed parked cars, and refused to arrest bystanders who harassed patrons outside [4]. The local PTA and musician’s union also protested the bar, with tension in the community consistently building [5].  

LAPD checks IDs outside of The Patch, August 1968. Photo: Box Turtle Bulletin.

According to The Los Angeles Advocate, a local activist newsletter, the building tension “came to a head” on August 17, 1968, when officers entered the bar to begin checking IDs, which frequently resulted in patrons scattering from gay bars to avoid arrest or humiliation [6]. The owner of The Patch, Lee Glaze, however, encouraged patrons to resist intimidation from the police. “It’s not against the law to be a homosexual,” he said, “and it’s not a crime to be in a gay bar” [7]. The officers ultimately made two arrests for “lewd conduct.” But at Glaze’s urging, the remaining crowd of 250 stayed at the bar [7]. This marked the first act of resistance associated with this event.

Owner of The Patch, Lee Glaze. Photo: Box Turtle Bulletin.

Historians have been careful to note that with only two arrests made, this was not a full police raid as sometimes occurred at gay bars during this period, and that patrons did not leave after the arrests was already significant. But once the bar closed for the evening, Glaze bought all of the flowers from one of his patron’s flower shops, and invited the crowd to join him in taking them to the Los Angeles Police Department in protest, where the two patrons had been detained after their arrest [7].

Flower Power Protest of LAPD by patrons of The Patch, August 1968. Photo: Box Turtle Bulletin.

During the 1960s, flowers were frequently used as a means of peacefully protesting, and became known as Flower Power protests. Flowers were used as a symbol of peace during this act of resistance, and functioned as a site of usable memory [8]. By using flowers to protest the LAPD, patrons of The Patch peacefully protested their harassment and arrests, marking a second act of resistance against their treatment. By refusing to leave the bar after the raid and also protesting the police department, the patrons of The Patch demonstrated two acts of resistance.

A group of the Flower Power protesters from The Patch, pictured above at the LAPD Harbor Station after the two detainees had been released. August 1968. Photo: Press-Telegram.

The Patch and Gay Collective Memory

How is The Patch remembered? In short, it is seemingly forgotten in the gay collective memory of the United States. This is not altogether surprising, as Michael Schudson writes, “Distortion is inevitable. Memory is distortion since memory is invariably and inevitably selective” [9].

Today, one of the most iconic events of the modern LGBT rights movement in the United States is the Stonewall Inn riots of June 1969. In gay collective memory, the Stonewall riots are regarded as the turning point for gay liberation and are commemorated annually with pride parades in cities throughout the country [10]. But what about the important milestones and acts of gay resistance before Stonewall, including The Patch?

“Gay is Good” slogan created by gay rights activist Frank Kameny in 1968. Photo: “Gay Influence.”

While claims about Stonewall’s revolutionary importance continue, historians of sexuality have challenged the institutionalization of Stonewall, noting that the riots at the Stonewall Inn did not mark the first police raid, the first act of gay resistance against police, or the first instance of political organizing for gay interests [10]. Other events, such as The Patch raid and protest, have “failed to achieve the mythic stature of Stonewall and indeed have been virtually forgotten” [10].

At the time of The Patch raid and its subsequent protest, several other major acts of gay resistance and protest had occurred in response to police raids throughout the country. In San Francisco, significant raids took place at a New Year’s Ball in January 1965 and Compton’s Cafeteria in August 1966, and in Los Angeles, at The Black Cat in January 1967 [10]. These events, in addition to The Patch, seem to have been forgotten in the shadow of Stonewall’s annual pride commemorations.

Applying Barbie Zelizer’s [11] “Premises for Collective Remembering,” gay collective memory has been unpredictable in that it is not necessarily logical that The Patch has been forgotten, and it is difficult to determine why The Patch has become less significant. One can also see a rearrangement of time in gay collective memory with what Zelizer calls collapsing commemoration, in that Stonewall has come to represent a celebration of the acts of gay activism that came before it, including The Patch. While commemoration of Stonewall through pride parades is particular, it is also universal as it commemorates all acts of gay resistance and liberation, which again includes The Patch. The claims about Stonewall’s centrality to the movement also demonstrate the partiality and selectivity of memory: this one act could not liberate every individual represented by the LGBT rights movement in the United States, and its success is an achievement of the activism and events that came before it. If gay collective memory is a “mosaic,” as Zelizer suggests collective memories are, Stonewall and The Patch are each pieces of that dynamic mosaic.

Pride March on Christopher Street, New York, 1970. Photo: Time Out New York.

Armstrong and Crage offer a fascinating analysis of what they call “The Myth of Stonewall,” arguing that Stonewall’s successful commemoration was based on its mnemonic capacity and resonance in New York and other cities, and that this led to its institutionalization, rendering it “an achievement of gay liberation rather than an account of its origins” [11].

Though the gay collective memory at large has forgotten The Patch, it is an important site of memory for the Metropolitan Community Church. After being present for the night of The Patch raid and protest, Rev. Troy Perry cites his experience as part of his inspiration for founding a church that was welcoming of the LGBTQ community, which has spread throughout the world today [12] [13].

The LGBT rights movement continues to benefit from the annual commemorations of Stonewall, but celebration of this one event forgets The Patch and other specific, significant acts of the movement that came before Stonewall. While Stonewall and The Patch live on in the memory of individuals for whom these events have great personal significance, Armstrong and Crage’s argument offers a compelling explanation for the reasons The Patch Raid and Flower Power Protest have been forgotten in gay collective memory.

Pride Parade in New York City, 2010s. Photo: Time Out New York.

[1] The Box Turtle Bulletin. http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2015/08/page/2.

[2] Ibid.

[2] Faderman, Lillian and Stuart Timmons. L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians. 2006.

[3] ‘Patch’ Fights Three-Way Battle. The Los Angeles Advocate (August 1968): 3, 25.

[4] The Box Turtle Bulletin. http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2015/08/page/2.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] ‘Patch’ Fights Three-Way Battle. The Los Angeles Advocate (August 1968): 3, 25.

[8] “Processual Flower,” 1968 in American Memory. https://1968inmemory.web.unc.edu/2018/04/processual-flower/.

[9] Schudson, Michael. “Dynamics of Distortion in Collective Memory,” Memory Distortion: How Minds, Brains, and Societies Reconstruct the Past. Eds. Daniel L. Schacter et al. (1995), 346-364.

[10] Armstrong, Elizabeth A. and Suzanna M. Crage. Movements and Memory: The Making of the Stonewall Myth. American Sociological Review, 2006, Vol. 71, October. 724-751.

[11] Zelizer, Barbie. “Reading the Past Against the Grain: The Shape of Memory Studies,” Critical Studies in Mass Communications (June 1995): 214-239.

[12] Founders Metropolitan Community Church. http://www.mccla.org/about-us/our-history/.

[13] Perry, Troy. “UFMCC Celebrates 30 Year Anniversary,” Whosoeverhttp://whosoever.org/v3i2/ufmcc.html.

Works Cited

Armstrong, Elizabeth A. and Suzanna M. Crage. Movements and Memory: The Making of the Stonewall Myth. American Sociological Review, 2006, Vol. 71, October. 724-751.

Faderman, Lillian and Stuart Timmons. L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians. 2006.

Founders Metropolitan Community Church. http://www.mccla.org/about-us/our-history/.

“‘Patch’ Fights Three-Way Battle,” The Los Angeles Advocate (August 1968): 3, 25.

Perry, Troy. “UFMCC Celebrates 30 Year Anniversary,” Whosoeverhttp://whosoever.org/v3i2/ufmcc.html.

“Processual Flower,” 1968 in American Memory. https://1968inmemory.web.unc.edu/2018/04/processual-flower/.

Schudson, Michael. “Dynamics of Distortion in Collective Memory,” Memory Distortion: How Minds, Brains, and Societies Reconstruct the Past. Eds. Daniel L. Schacter et al. (1995), 346-364.

The Box Turtle Bulletin. http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2015/08/page/2.

Zelizer, Barbie. “Reading the Past Against the Grain: The Shape of Memory Studies,” Critical Studies in Mass Communications (June 1995): 214-239.

5 thoughts on “LGBT Rights Movement: The Patch Raid and Flower Power Protest”

  1. I don’t think that this is the finished essay posted here. It was very short. The order of the essay was a little funky. I was confused at first because I did not know what The Patch was before you jumped into the brief section titled Gay Rights Movement. Need to focus on how this is remembered/commemorated as well as the description of the event itself. Good luck!

    1. Thank you for your comment. This post is processual, so it was still in progress at the time you reviewed it.

  2. I like the overall picture set in motion here. However, I feel as if this post either wasn’t finished or needs a little brushing up on. The pictures here are very interesting, but I believe the general explanation needs to be longer and well-sorted. Alongside that, the link between your topic and memory as a whole wasn’t made here, but I think you set the ball rolling, so the rest will come hopefully. I’d love to read the finished version of this! Good luck

    1. Thank you for your feedback! The post was still under construction at the time of your review.

  3. After reading the finished post, I really did enjoy the overlapping concepts of memory and how perfectly you connect the dots. From Schudson to Zelizer, their writings on memory are perfectly implemented into this post. I also really enjoyed the similarity to my post about the flower power. This event would’ve gone great with some of the other examples I gave in my post regarding protests with flowers. Overall, I believe you had an amazing post with many details and how it correctly ties back to the overall concepts we have learned this year!

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