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Black Cat Tavern
The Black Cat sign (40217238521).jpg
Location 3909 W Sunset Blvd
Built 1939
Architectural style(s) Art Deco
Governing body private
Designated 2008
Reference no. 939
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The Black Cat Tavern is an LGBT historic site located in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. In 1967, it was the site of one of the first demonstrations in the United States protesting police brutality against LGBT people, preceding the Stonewall riots by over two years.

History

The bar was established in November 1966; two months later, on New Year's Eve, several plainclothes Los Angeles Police Department officers infiltrated the tavern.

According to local gay newspaper Tangents, "the Black Cat was happy and hopping" before undercover police arrived and started beating patrons as they were ringing in the New Year: "There were colored balloons covering the ceiling ... and three glittering Christmas trees." Moments later, “all hell broke loose.” After arresting several patrons for kissing as they celebrated the occasion, the undercover police officers began beating several of the patrons and ultimately arrested fourteen patrons for "assault and public lewdness".

Contrary to popular myth, there was no "riot" at the Black Cat, but a civil demonstration of 200 attendees to protest the raids was held on February 11, 1967. The demonstration was organized by a group called PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education) – founded by Steve Ginsberg – and the SCCRH (Southern California Council on Religion and Homophile). The protest was met by squadrons of armed policemen.

Legacy

The raid and subsequent protests inspired publication of The Advocate, which began as a newspaper for the group PRIDE. The January 1967 raid on the Black Cat Tavern and the August 1968 raid on The Patch together inspired the formation of the Metropolitan Community Church (led by Pastor Troy Perry).

For some time "the Stonewall riots became central to gay collective memory while other events did not." By pointing to critical moments in LGBT history that took place before 1969, historians continue to challenge the notion that the events at the Stonewall Inn marked the very first time LGBT folks "fought back instead of passively enduring humiliating treatment." Indeed, the 1959 Cooper Donuts Riot and the 1966 Compton's Cafeteria riot predate the incidents at The Black Cat.

On November 7, 2008, the Black Cat site was declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.

In 2014, queer Chicana artist Alma López and students in her "Queer Art in LA" class at UCLA painted a mural depicting the protests. The mural is located in the LGBTQ Studies offices in Haines Hall on the UCLA campus.

Present day

After operating as a gay bar under several names (most recently Le Barcito catering to the Latino community), in November 2012 the site became a restaurant and bar named The Black Cat in memory of the earlier establishment. The new Black Cat caters to a general clientele, and there are photographs of the events of 1967 displayed inside.

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