In mere minutes, it was a battle, as hundreds of drag queens, trans men and trans women, non-binary individuals, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and every queer identity under the sun—many of them also people of color, like Stormé, who had felt the yoke of the law and prejudice elsewhere in their lives—fought back. The police soon barricaded themselves in the bar. The mob broke through the barricade more than once and attempted to set the inn on fire. They succeeded. The fire department and the riot squad arrived to put out the flames and break up the crowd. They only partially succeeded; though the fire at the Stonewall Inn was doused, the fire of the rebellion spread.
Protests, often numbering in the thousands, continued in Greenwich Village for five days, erupting into violence and destruction more than once. While this was not the beginning of the gay rights movement (organizations had existed and had been fighting for decades), the Stonewall uprising was a motivating and unifying event. The anniversity parade held the following year, June 28, 1970, was the United States of America’s first gay pride parade.
It’s not certain that it was Stormé who was arrested and gave the call to action, though she says it was and several eyewitnesses concur. What is certain, however, is that she was there, she fought, and she spent the rest of her life protecting her “baby girls,” the other lesbians in the Village.
Throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, she worked as a bouncer for several New York City lesbian bars, and often patrolled the neighborhood as a gun-toting (she had a state permit) “guardian of the lesbians of the Village.” In her obituary in The New York Times, Lisa said, “She literally walked the streets of downtown Manhattan like a gay superhero. … She was not to be messed with by any stretch of the imagination.”