Stonewall Riots

In the early hours of the 28th June, 1969, police raided Stonewall Inn, a popular place among young gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. Immediately, they arrested 13 people. These individuals consisted of employees, who had been selling alcohol without a license, and people violating the state’s gender appropriate clothing statute, which disallowed cross dressing. When the officers left the bar, crowds outside became enraged. The police were jeered and many went on to throw coins and debris at them. It got so bad that the police had to barricade themselves inside the bar to await backup. The riots continued for a further 5 days…

During the 1960s, society was not very welcoming to the LGBT community which is why many individuals flocked to gay bars and clubs, as they were able to express themselves and socialise with others, without worrying. During this period, the New York State Liquor Authority, the place to go to for a license to sell alcohol, was very corrupt. Many places were penalised and shut down if they served alcohol to known or suspected LGBT individuals. They perceived homosexual gatherings to be “disorderly.” In 1966, this changed, allowing LGBT bars to start selling alcohol. However, it was still wrong to engage in ‘gay’ behaviour in public. This allowed police to continue to harass gay clubs and bars operating without licenses.

In 1966, the Genovese crime family, one of the five families that dominated crime activities in New York city and New Jersey, purchased the Stonewall Inn. They cheaply renovated it and reopened it the next year, as a gay bar. The bar was said to be a private bottle bar. This meant that it would not need a liquor license as individuals would bring their own liquor. In going to the club, individuals had to sign their names upon entry in order to maintain the club’s false exclusivity. The family, who had connections to dangerous people, would bribe the club’s wealthier guests who wanted to keep their sexuality a secret. In addition to this, the family had connections to people within the police. Many officers had been bribed by the family to ignore activities that were going on within the club. These officers would tip off the mafia bars in advance, which would allow them to stash alcohol that was sold without a license fee.

However, on the night of the raid, the bar had not been tipped off. The invasion of the club led to an uproar among the community. Particularly, among the LGBT community who had little spaces where they were accepted within society. Although this wasn’t the start of the LGBT movement, it was a catalytic force. Many gay rights organisations began as a result of this night and the days which followed it. On the year anniversary of the raid, a march began. The Christopher Street Liberation Day march, named after the epicenter of New York city’s gay community, had an outcome of between 1,000-20,000 people (the number is not known). It started small but as the march walked 51 blocks north, the numbers increased majorly, with people shouting “say it clear, say it loud. Gay is good, gay is proud.” 

On the 2nd of June, 2000, President Bill Clinton declared June as “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month” in order to commemorate the June 1969 Stonewall riots in Lower Manhattan. On the 1st of June, 2009, President Barack Obama expanded the commemoration further by declaring June “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.” The month, to this day, is a reflection of the years of struggle for the civil rights and pursuit of equal justice under the law for the LGBTQ community, as well as a celebration of how far the movement has come. Each year, Pride parades take place across the world in order to celebrate and support the community. Unfortunately, the parade in London has been cancelled this year because of the coronavirus. However, the organisers have pushed people to take digital actions in order to show their support for the movement. 

Society is steadily becoming more accepting. Older generations, and the views of their time, are slowly dying out, which leaves the younger generations to learn from their mistakes and be more welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community. Whilst it is good to learn from the past, we cannot become fixated on it. Instead of thinking who is to blame, which will cause further divide in society, we need to think ‘what next?’ That way, society will continue to evolve.

“We are the 99%!”

On the 17th of September, 2011, a group of activists took to Wall Street, the finance capital, in order to protest against income inequality across the US. The group, who called themselves Occupy, wanted to draw attention to how the top 1% of the population hold the majority of the world’s wealth, whilst the other 99% struggle to pay off their debts. The movement soon won the hearts of many across the world as within 2 months, around 2,300 other protests began across 2,000 cities worldwide. But, were they successful?

Occupy is the first major public response to thirty years of class war.

Noam Chomsky

When the protestors took to Zuccotti park, after having the police shut down their first two destinations, they were angry. With the 2008 financial crisis still in sight, the protestors felt that they had been sold out. In response to the crisis, many banks were bailed out by the government because they were “too big to fail.” Under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA), the Treasury Secretary was able to buy up to $700 billion of troubled assets in order to restore liquidity to financial markets. In simple terms, the government used their money, much of it being tax revenue, in order to help the large banks out.

The first aim of the movement was to occupy the mainstream. They wanted to do this by first occupying space with tents and people. This was in order to get the attention of the media and henceforth, the global community. The protestors remained in Zuccotti square for just under a month before they were ordered to leave by police due to hazardous and unsanitary conditions. Before this time period, the police were unable to legally remove protestors from the park as it is private property and would require the permission of the owners. When police ordered them to leave, by dismantling tents and removing property, they assured the protestors could come back after the park had been cleared. However, they were told to not come back with camping equipment. Unfortunately, the removal of protesters was not that simple as more people started arriving at the scene after a mass text message was sent out alerting followers of the raid. Many protesters had to be forcibly evicted and many were arrested. This, however, was not the end of Occupy.

As mentioned earlier, the protest blew up across the world with people occupying places like Brooklyn, Long Island, the Bronx and even cities across Europe and Asia. This led to large media coverage across the world with large newspapers like the New York Times adopting language from the movement within their articles. In February 2012, they posted “why Obama will embrace the 99 percent.” By media outlets adopting language from the movement, Occupy became successful in occupying the mainstream.

There was a two to three month period in which the Occupy movement became more pessimistic. People started losing interest as the movement had no clear leadership. In a lot of movements, there is usually a leader who organises everything and ensures the success. However, the whole point of Occupy was to remove the concentration of power from the 1%. If they were to have a leader in the movement, then they would be undermining their argument about control and power. On the other hand, by not having a leader, they did not have organisation as there was not one way to go.

In order to continue to be relevant, the movement decided to diversify their tactics. They began to disrupt auctions where people’s stolen homes were up for sale. By doing this, they were able to expose the heartlessness and inhumanity of the system whilst also offering meaningful solidarity to those being crushed by it. Another way the movement chose to get heard was by going to an Obama campaign. The group had a tactic called ‘Mic Check.’ This was in order to get their voices heard in a large group of people. When ‘Mic Check’ was heard, the movement would listen to one person and repeat what they say in unison, so that more people can hear it. At an Obama campaign, they used this tactic in order to speak to the soon to be President about what they wanted. Within this rally, the group was successful in getting Obama to listen. He responded to them by saying “I appreciate you guys making your point. Let me go ahead and make mine. I’ll listen to you if you listen to me.” 

However, with the process of diversifying tactics, with no clear leadership, violent protests began to erupt. Alongside the peaceful protests came the black bloc, a group consistently categorized as hooligans, thugs and youth who take joy in private property destruction. They were described as being “the cancer of the Occupy movement” by Chris Hedges. These individuals began shattering windows, sending flares and vandalising the streets and local businesses. As always, the press will focus on those within the movement who are causing the most damage as it will get the most views- that’s journalism! Due to this, the media completely changed their opinions on the Occupy movement. Large news outlets like Fox News began calling them “drug addicts” and “terrorists.” This earnt the movement a bad reputation in the mainstream which caused people to dissociate themselves.

Another aim of the movement was to end corporate personhood. This gives corporations rights and responsibilities similar to the natural person, under the law. As a result of this, corporations across the US have a right to free speech under the First Amendment. This gives them limitless individual contributions to political campaigns. Many financial institutions, therefore, began to pour money into the political campaigns for their chosen politician. As the price for campaigning in the US is extremely high, candidates, who want to be successful, are forced into the hands of the corporate sector. When it comes to the primaries, candidates surround their campaign with publicity and advertisement in order to tell people who they are and what they will do. Instead of this, candidates should be communicating with people through having town meetings and discussions. This will enable candidates to understand what the people want in their local area, in the country and with regards to foreign policy. Unfortunately, by collaborating with large banks and corporations, political candidates have to impress them rather than the people, as they are the ones funding their campaign. When Mark Hanna, a great political financier, was asked what is important in politics, he responded “the first is money, the second one is money and I’ve forgotten what the third one is”. This concentration of wealth within the corporate sector is what yields concentration of political power. This then gives rise to legislation that increases and accelerates the cycle. 

The continuous campaigning to end corporate personhood became successful in 2012 as the New York City Council passed a resolution that opposed it. Resolution 1172 formally expressed disapproval to the landmark US Supreme Court decision which gave corporations the same first amendment rights as people. A statement released after said:

“As our support of this resolution demonstrates, restoring confidence in government and strengthening democratic participation is a core principle of the Progressive Caucus. We believe that corporations should not share the same rights as people, that unlimited and unreported corporate donations meant to sway the electoral process should not be considered freedom of speech, and that the government should regulate the raising and spending of money by corporations intended to influence elections. We cannot allow corporate money to manipulate our democracy.”

This resolution was a major success to Occupy who had been continuously campaigning for this. However, just because they were successful in New York, it did not mean that they had ended corporate personhood. In fact, it is still an ongoing legal debate.

As of 2020, the Occupy movement has died down. It is not expressed in the media and is not a daily conversation that people have with each other. Just because the movement is not spoken about to this day, it does not go to show that they were unsuccessful. In fact, as Noam Chomsky said, their greatest success was simply putting the inequalities of everyday life on the national agenda. Through influencing reporting, the movement was able to change the public perception. In fact, two thirds of the US population now believe that there are very strong/ strong conflicts between the rich and the poor. This was an increase of 19% since 2009. Whilst the movement were unable to achieve all of their aims, they were successful in educating people about the inequalities that persist within society.

Suicide Bombing: A Strategic Tactic?

It is difficult to fight suicide bombers because they have no fear of taking their lives or those of any one else

Dharmalingam Sidhathan

Within the media, suicide bombing is seen as an act of radicalisation. That, being ‘the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and extremist ideologies associated with terrorist groups.’ Individuals are seen as being radicalised by terrorists or having mental health issues. Whilst this is true in some cases, it is not true in all. As a result of this, I am going to discuss the strategic value of suicide bombing as I do not believe that this is obvious.

Suicide bombing ‘is a politically motivated, violent attack perpetrated by an individual who is actively and purposely causes his death by blowing himself up along with his chosen target.’ It was first used in 1881 by the terrorist organisation ‘The People’s Will.’ The group’s aim was to overthrow the Tsarist Autocracy by assassinating Alexander II. The group’s failed attempt at throwing dynamite at Alexander the II led Ignaty Grinevitsky to improvise and use himself as a mode of transport for the dynamite. His success in doing so, has led to other terrorist organisations doing the same thing.

Terrorists aim to reek havoc. They want individuals, within a given state, to become so scared that they no longer want to go out. This, in effect, will help them achieve their aim. Suicide bombings are hard to intercept due to the fact that individuals can conceal weapons on their body. By doing this, they are able to get in the middle of a busy place before setting off the bomb. Due to the instant effect, no one is able to stop them unless someone notices the suicide vest beforehand. In addition to this, suicide bombers are able to make last minute adjustments to their plan when they need to. As a result of not needing an escape route, they can continue with the plan no matter what happens. This enables them to cause a higher death poll. In fact, between 1980 and 2001, only 3% of terrorists used suicide bombing as a tactic. However, 48% of the deaths related to terrorism between the same dates were as a result of suicide terrorism. This just goes to show how effective suicide bombing is as a tactic. For example, if the terrorists involved in 9/11 were not willing to die for their cause, how would they have been able to cause the same amount of destruction? The hijackers needed to be on-board the planes in order to successfully drive them into the Twin Towers and The Pentagon. They could not have done this without dying. Therefore, suicide bombing is a strategic tactic.

For the majority of terrorist organisations, they have a political aim. Most frequently, this is to regain their homeland from a state who has invaded. The group set out that they will continue to use suicide bombing, on the opposition, until they withdraw their troops. One example of this was the US in Lebanon. At the time, there was political unrest in the state meaning that a new leader could come into power. However, in order to prevent a leader that could be corrupt, the US invaded. Furthermore, they wanted to protect the oil resources and strategic waterways. The involvement of the US in another state caused the creation and uprising of the terrorist organisation, Hezbollah. Their political aim was to regain possession of their homeland from the US. In order to achieve this, they use suicide bombing as a tactic. One particular night, they drove a vehicle, full of explosives, into the US base. It killed 241 military personnel. This left Reagan with no other decision than to withdraw troops from Lebanon. If he decided to keep them there, then Hezbollah would continue to attacks US troops. In fact, in a speech, Reagan addressed the withdrawal by saying that “[the US] couldn’t stay there and run the risk of another suicide attack on the marines.” By addressing the suicide attack, Reagan gave in to the terrorist organisation. Consequently, suicide bombing is a crucial tactic for a terrorist organisation.

A typical theory of radicalisation says that every radicalised individual goes down the same path: marginalised by society, exposure to propaganda, a catalyst event, acceptance of extremist views and in-group radicalisation. However, there is a lot of research to discredit these theories. In fact, only half of individuals who are radicalised, were socially isolated and many had partners of some sort. This discredits the idea that they are all marginalised individuals. In addition to this, less than a third had a history of mental illnesses which discredits the media’s interpretation of terrorists being mentally unstable. Studies taken between 2012 and 2017 actually proved that the majority of terrorist attacks have nothing to do with mental illness. In fact, many individuals who become terrorists or suicide bombers have a university degree. This is especially the case with the terrorist organisation Hamas. This organisation fought to remove Israel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. By having a degree, they cannot be described as uneducated individuals. As a result of this, theories of radicalisation are weakened as there is a lack of support for them.

If this is the case, then why do the media and political figures describe suicide bombers as mentally ill, suicidal individuals? I believe that this in itself is a tactic. If the media showed how mentally sane terrorists were, then they would create fear within their state. For example, if a terrorist attack happened at your local shopping centre, you will be fearful to go there. However, if the media and politicians say that the individual who committed that crime was in fact mentally ill or suicidal, then you will not be as scared. It is a tactic to prevent people worrying about it happening again. Furthermore, it discredits terrorist ideologies. It prevents people from joining terrorist organisations as it frames them as mentally ill individuals. By the media doing this, it ensures that individuals continue with their daily lives.

By no means am I supporting the extremist ideologies of a terrorist organisation. I understand that many innocent lives are lost as a result of suicide attacks. However, I have recently had to read a lot of literature on the topic and found a lot of interesting ideas. The lack of support for the irrationality of a terrorist was an eye opener for me which is why I decided to write about what I found out.