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.

The Foundation of the American Indian Movement

American Indians in 1968

Throughout the racial unrest around 1968, many people typically seem to think that the period of civil tension was solely between Whites and Blacks. What society sometimes forgets to mention are the other ethnic and cultural groups that were being underrepresented and racially discriminated against. One of these groups experiencing their own civil rights movement during 1968 are Native Americans. Leading up to the infamous year of 1968, Native Americans were continuously forced off of reservations and integrated into mainstream America [2]. The constant injustices placed onto Native Americans began to spark a fire among the remaining tribes across the nation. Throughout the 1960’s Native Americans began to rise together against the destruction of their culture, leading to several riots and meetings, including the meeting that established the American Indian Movement (AIM).

Digital image of the logo used for the American Indian Movement. [4]

Rise of the American Indian Movement

The first mentions of the American Indian Movement were introduced in July of 1968. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, a group of Native Americans from several tribes met to discuss the travesties and extermination of their culture [4]. Throughout the meeting, the group became increasingly impressed by the success of the Black Panther movement and wanted their culture to get as much media attention as the Black Panther Party [2]. Through this curiosity, the group founded the American Indian Movement, and set out to spread the news throughout Native Americans across the country. The group immediately began to create events that they thought would attract the press, giving them attention similar to the Black Panther Party [2].

One of the main goals of the American Indian Movement is to encourage Native American power and determination to get the recognition they deserve [1]. Another goal was to assist Native Americans that had been forced into poor urban areas due to the Indian Relocation Act of 1954 [2]. Most of the recognition the Native Americans desired came in the form of treaties with the United States government that granted them recognition of their land, culture, and lifestyles. Overall, the purpose of founding the American Indian Movement was to ensure that Native American culture was not only reserved, but shared and recognized across the United States.

The American Indian Movement was originally founded and led in 1968 by Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt, and George Mitchell [3]. Other, less publicly known founders were a crucial part in the movement’s foundation. While these were the founders of the movement, the leadership quickly grew as

“A photography of Russel Means, surrounded by aides, running to escape federal marshals that had a warrant for his arrest” [5].
the movement gained traction throughout 1968. One of the major leaders that organized several of the early events for the movement was Russell Means. Although Russell Means was not a founder, he quickly became involved in the movement and even led the first event that monitored police brutality on Native Americans in 1968 [3].

 

AIM Song [7]-

The AIM song is the symbol of the American Indian Movement. The song showed the power, determination, and culture of AIM through music, which is a very important part to Native American culture [6].

What AIM Represents in 1968

The American Indian Movement, also known as AIM, can be representative of the year 1968 in many ways. The main aspect that it represents is the movement or desire for civil equality across all cultures, races, and nationalities. 1968 was a year of change for the whole world, but specifically the United States. While 1968 was 50 years ago, the American Indian Movement is a representation of how the year lives on in our memory and our actions. The American Indian Movement is still alive and very strong today. The movement is a reminder of where we have come from, where we are now, and where we strive to be.

 

AIM Since 1968:

The American Indian Movement did not stop once its foundation in 1968. The group has organized several successful protests over the past 50 years.

“American Indians reworked Alcatraz’ main entrance signage after the 1969 invasion” [8]
One of the most important and publicized events was the takeover of Alcatraz in 1970. The protest continued for several months until government officials cut off all resources on the island, forcing the Native Americans to return home [2].

Another important event organized by AIM was the Trail of Broken Treaties. This was a march that included around 1,000 Native Americans that demanded change [2]. Although the event occurred in 1971, it exists as a way we remember 1968. The year of 1968 began the movement of protests, marches, and speaking out against racial injustices. The foundation of the American Indian Movement established the permanent memory of 1968. Although it has been half a century since the infamous year of 1968, the memory of the year lives on within the American Indian Movement. The goals, purpose, and history behind the foundation of the American Indian Movement will forever house the memory of 1968 and what the year stood for.

 

 

 

Resources:

[1] Paul Lagasse. American Indian Movement. The Columbia Encyclopedia. 2017. https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/columency/american_indian_movement/0

[2] American Indian Movement. West’s Encyclopedia of American Law. Encyclopedia.com. 2005. https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/united-states-and-canada/north-american-indigenous-peoples/american-indian-movement

[3] The American Indian Movement, 1968-1978. Digital Public Library of America. https://dp.la/primary-source-sets/the-american-indian-movement-1968-1978

[4] American Indian Movement (AIM): Overview. Minnesota History Center. http://libguides.mnhs.org/aim

[5] A photography of Russel Means, surrounded by aides, running to escape federal marshals that had a warrant for his arrest, April 27, 1973. Digital Public Library of America. https://dp.la/primary-source-sets/the-american-indian-movement-1968-1978/sources/1332

[6] Blackfire- Topic. American Indian Movement Song. Youtube.com. 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiJSMMc5UbQ

[7] AIM Song. Ojibwe.net. http://ojibwe.net/songs/womens-traditional/aim-song/

[8] Ben Winton. The occupation of Alcatraz. The Native Press. 2010. http://thenativepress.com/rezpolitics/the-occupation-of-alcatraz/