San Francisco, Calif.
625 Polk Street
You’ve probably been reading about the police raid on a gay bar in Fort Worth, Texas, just last month – an unusual and shocking event these dayss. In the 1960s, however, police harassment of gay people was de rigueur. Take the New Year’s Ball of 1965, held at this San Francisco site on January 1. The ball was a “respectable” event, organized by six homophile organizations to raise money for the newly formed Council on Religion and the Homosexual, which was designed to open communication between the established church and the city’s gay community. Though council members met with police in advance to ensure a smooth-running event without incident, the police didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. (Surprise!) As intimidation, they took photographs of each person entering the fundraiser and parked patrol wagons outside the hall. Several attorneys were arrested for arguing with a policeman at the entrance.
Despite the deliberate police harassment, 500 people, gay and straight, lay and clergy, attended the ball. Outrage against police interference ran high after the event and led to a greater politicization of the homophile community, which demanded certain changes in police dealings with gays. Concessions ultimately obtained from the city included having a police liaison to the gay community, a hotline for minority groups against police brutality, and a National Sex Forum to educate officials and police about human sexuality.