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Stonewall veteran: 'The struggle is worth it'

Jay Chetney was at the Stonewall Inn in New York City when the uprising that gave birth to the gay Pride movement was born.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Jay Chetney lives in St. Petersburg these days, but in the summer of 1969, he was at the Stonewall Inn in New York City when the uprising that gave birth to the gay Pride movement was born.

“It was like the galvanizing moment, where it had been percolating throughout the United States,” said Chetney.

"The idea was not unique but there really wasn't enough support. We weren't being supported by the civil rights or the anti-war or, the women's movement (which) actually expelled lesbians.

 “In that day and age, being homosexual was considered almost criminal. First of all, you were considered to be mentally ill just because you were homosexual.”

"The (Stonewall Inn) bar had been totally trashed, and our idea was to reopen the bar as a sign of civil disobedience because the police had ordered the bar closed."

Chetney said reopening the bar was "a flagrant slap in the face of the mayor and police, so we knew they were coming back, but they didn't just send a car full of police, they sent like a squadron of over a hundred tactical police force in helmets and riot gear, shields and billy clubs.

"A guy from the police force, they were sweeping the neighborhood because there were thousands of people that had gathered that evening throughout the Village, and one of the cops broke away and came chasing directly at me and targeting me and he was screaming at the top of his lungs that I was nothing but a hippie f****t and he had a billy club and he was swinging it and he just bashed my knee as hard as he could and kept on beating my knee."

“It was remarkable that such a revolution even occurred at this place, but I’m glad that it did,” he added. "The struggle is worth it and it's worth getting out there and doing something about it."

Chetney says he's proud to have been there and to have stood side by side with everyone else who was there that night -- and says he's proud to call St. Petersburg home now specifically because it is so welcoming and accepting of the LGBTQ community.

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