LA Pride Parade history includes hatred from LAPD

WEST HOLLYWOOD — In the 1960s and 70s, the Los Angeles Police Department made life miserable for the LGBTQ community.

Officers and undercover vice decoys relentlessly terrorized the community with false arrests, bar raids, and violence. It was a fact of life for LGBTQ people.

Black Cat protest

For example, in February 1967, the Black Cat on Sunset Boulevard was the site of one of the nation’s first organized LGBTQ demonstrations. Activists protested Los Angeles police harassment and violence at the neighborhood gay bar. This landmark demonstration — along with numerous others in Los Angeles, San Francisco and across the country in the mid-1960s — helped launch the gay civil rights movement. Alexi Romanoff, one of the original Black Cat protestors, talked with Q Voice News in 2017 about the historic event.

LA Pride Parade History

A crowd on Hollywood Boulevard in 1970 watches the first LA Pride Parade. Photo: ONE Archives USC Libraries.

LA Pride Parade launches

Other people also fought back regarding police brutality in the LGBTQ community.  

In 1970, three gay men stood up to the police and decided to do what was unthinkable at the time — They organized a Gay Pride parade in Hollywood.

Bob Humphries (founder of the United States Mission), Morris Kight (a founder of the Gay Liberation Front), and Troy Perry (founder of the Metropolitan Community Church) came up with the idea as a way to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City. At The Stonewall Inn, a neighborhood gay bar, New York police terrorized and persecuted the LGBTQ clientele. After one gay bar raid too many, the community pushed back against the police and had a rebellion on June 28, 1969.

The Los Angeles Police Commission and Police Chief Ed Davis, who publicly called gay people “fairies,” made numerous efforts to prevent the parade from happening though various permits and fees. (The above video includes a letter from Davis criticizing the LGBTQ community.)

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Gay Pride defeats LAPD

Eventually, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ordered the city to issue a permit, return any paid fees, and drop any other requirements.

The judge made it clear that all citizens are entitled to equal rights and protections under the law, and also ordered law enforcement to protect marchers and spectators.

Nation’s 1st Gay Pride parade

On June 28, 1970, the nation’s first Gay Pride parade marched along Hollywood Boulevard.

The LA Pride Festival started four years later in Hollywood in a parking lot at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Cherokee Avenue.

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LA Pride Parade, Festival relocates

The pride parade and festival relocated in 1979 to West Hollywood. The move was motivated in part because the enclave had a large gay and lesbian population and was considered more friendly to the LGBTQ community.

The festival also moved because not only had outgrown its Hollywood site, but also because the police  refused to end their ongoing hostility toward the LGBTQ community.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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