As the controversy surrounding the upcoming Stonewall movie continues to grow, two New York statues commemorating the gay liberation movement have become the utilised in the backlash against the supposed ‘whitewashing’ of the infamous 1969 riots.
With the Roland Emmerich-directed feature set for a worldwide release next month (September), the Christopher Street Gay Liberation sculpture in Manhattan was painted brown yesterday by anonymous activists, in protest at the perceived erasure of trans and ethnic minority identities from LGBT history.
The two men depicted in the sculpture – which was commissioned in 1980 and created by George Segal – were painted brown and dressed in women’s clothing, while a sign underneath read: “Black + Latina trans women led the riots. Stop the whitewashing”.
The two activists claiming to be behind the protest told Auto Straddle: “Those sculptures are supposedly there to commemorate the Stonewall riots, but there isn’t a trace of the actual riots in them.
“They’re a slap across the face to the Black and Latina trans women who got whacked with batons and shoved into police vans, and still had the guts to continue to lead the fight for LGBTQ liberation.
“I mean, the people who modeled for the sculptures weren’t even at the riots! That’s just a straight-up insult.”
When a two-minute teaser trailer for Emmerich’s cinematic take on the Stonewall Riots was was released earlier this month, buzz quickly turned to backlash as commentators across social media accused the Godzilla director of ‘whitewashing’ the film by making the protagonist a fictitious white male and relegating real-life trans and ethnic minority activists such a Marsha P. Joshson to supporting characters.
As an online petition called for a boycott of the film, Emmerich published a statement in response, saying the “labour of love” would honour the “real-life activists” including Johnson and others like Sylvia Rivera and Ray Castro, who were among those responsible for sparking the modern civil rights movement.
Meanwhile Jeremy Irvine, who stars as the film’s lead Danny, has also come to the defense of Emmerich and the film.
The 25-year-old War Horse actor took to Facebook last week, writing: “To anyone with concerns about the diversity of the #StonewallMovie, I saw the movie for the first time last week and can assure you all that it represents almost every race and section of society that was so fundamental to one of the most important civil rights movements in living history.”