Patch Riot

Patch Riot, Los Angeles – August 17, 1968

In 1964, Life magazine reported that the LAPD was on a “anti-homosexual drive” to stop gays from creating what it described as a “fruit world.” LAPD inspector James Fisk warned, “The pervert is no longer as secretive as he was—he’s aggressive and his aggressiveness is getting worse.”

Police repeatedly told Lee Glaze, owner of Long Beach’s the Patch, that to stay open he had to ban drag acts, physical contact and male-male dancing. But after business took a hit, Glaze instituted a new protocol: He’d just warn customers when undercover officers were in the bar by playing “God Save the Queen” on the jukebox.

On August 17, 1968, the vice squad arrived, demanding IDs and making arbitrary arrests. Glaze jumped on stage and yelled, “It’s not against the law to be homosexual and it’s not a crime to be in a gay bar!” He then led customers in protest chants and told them he’d cover their legal costs if they got arrested.

Two men were detained for “lewd conduct” but, unlike other clashes between gay bargoers and police, the Patch remained open that night. The band resumed playing and some 250 people kept on dancing.

“For the first time in memory, a gay bar not only survived the aftermath of a police raid after so many failed before, but thrived, thanks to the bar manager’s taking on the police on their home turf,” Box Car Bulletin wrote in 2016. “And there was another important first: instead of fleeing, never to return, customers stood by the Patch after the raid.”

Glaze found out where his customers were being held and led a crowd of about 25 to the station, giving each a flower from the florist shop he bought out along on the way. The “Flower Power” rally took over the Harbor Division Police Station’s waiting room at 3am, prompting desk officers to call in reinforcements. “One flower hits me, and you’re going to be charged with assault on a police officer,” warned the sergeant on duty. Soon a bondsman arrived and posted bail, but the police held the two men for several more hours before ultimately dropping the charges and releasing them at dawn.

“If all gay bars had customers such as mine, there would be no further harassment from various agencies such as the ABC, the police, and the so-called ‘straight’ public,” Glaze wrote to the Advocate in October 1968. “Throughout these problems their attitude has been ‘We’ re doing nothing wrong. We’re hurting no one. There is nothing illegal about being in a gay bar. There is nothing Illegal about a bar being gay. And we’re staying. Period.”

Rev. Troy Perry was present at the Patch raid—and in fact his boyfriend, Tony Valdez, was one of those arrested. After spending the night in jail, Velez told Perry “God doesn’t care about us.” In the face of such disillusionment, Perry decided to form the Metropolitan Community Church, which today includes more than 220 congregations around the world.

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