The Annual Reminders were the first pickets organized by homophile organizations specifically to demand equality for gays and lesbians. They were among the earliest LGBT demonstrations in the United States. Led by Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings, the Annual Reminders included activists from New York, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia. The protests took place each Fourth of July from 1965 to 1969 in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. At the first Annual Reminder, 40 demonstrators participated. By 1969 their numbers had tripled.
The Annual Reminders helped pave the way for the Stonewall riots on June 28, 1969. Stonewall is considered the flashpoint of the modern gay liberation movement. After the 1969 Annual Reminder, which occurred only six days after the riots, organizers discontinued the July 4th protests to help plan the Christopher Street Liberation Day on June 28, 1970, to commemorate the first anniversary of Stonewall.
Activist Craig Rodwell conceived of the event following an April 17, 1965 picket at the White House by members of the New York City and Washington, D.C. chapters of the Mattachine Society, Philadelphia's Janus Society and the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis. The groups operated under the collective name East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO). The name of the event was selected to remind the American people that a substantial number of American citizens were denied the rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" enumerated in the United States Declaration of Independence. Enthused by Rodwell's idea, ECHO put together the first Reminder picket in just over two months. Thirty-nine people attended the first picket, including veteran activists Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin. Kameny insisted on a strict dress code for participants, including jackets and ties for the men and dresses for the women. Kameny's goal was to represent homosexuals as "presentable and 'employable'". Picketers carried signs with such slogans as "HOMOSEXUAL BILL OF RIGHTS" and "15 MILLION HOMOSEXUAL AMERICANS ASK FOR EQUALITY, OPPORTUNITY, DIGNITY". The picket ran from 3:30-5:00 PM. Press coverage was sparse, although Confidential magazine ran a large feature about the Reminder and other homophile pickets in its October 1965 issue under the headline "Homos On The March".
The Annual Reminder continued through July 4, 1969. This final Annual Reminder took place less than a week after the June 28 Stonewall riots, in which the patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, fought against police who raided the bar. Rodwell received several telephone calls threatening him and the other New York participants, but he was able to arrange for police protection for the chartered bus all the way to Philadelphia. About 45 people participated, including the deputy mayor of Philadelphia and his wife. The dress code was still in effect at the Reminder, but two women from the New York contingent broke from the single-file picket line and held hands. When Kameny tried to break them apart, Rodwell furiously denounced him to onlooking members of the press.
Following the 1969 Annual Reminder, there was a sense, particularly among the younger and more radical participants, that the time for silent picketing had passed. As Frank Kameny put it, "[P]icketing as such had become questionable. Dissent and dissatisfaction had begun to take new and more emphatic forms in society." At the November 1—2, 1969 meeting of the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (the successor to ECHO), Ellen Broidy of the NYU Student Homophile League presented Craig Rodwell's proposal for a new commemorative demonstration. The conference passed a resolution drafted by Rodwell, his partner Fred Sargeant, Broidy and Linda Rhodes to move the demonstration from July 4 in Philadelphia to the last weekend in June in New York City, as well as proposing to "other organizations throughout the country... suggest(ing) that they hold parallel demonstrations on that day" to commemorate the Stonewall riot. The newly located event in New York City became known as Christopher Street Liberation Day.
The 1995 film Stonewall presents a fictionalized Annual Reminder. However, the film sets the Reminder earlier in the summer, predating the June 28 Stonewall riots.
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