Gay Activists Alliance Community Demonstration / Zap at Christopher’s End
A large “Community Demonstration to Protest Syndicate Domination and Police Harassment of Gays” on Saturday night July 24, 1971, was led by the Gay Activists Alliance and included some 2,000 people.
The group marched down Christopher Street to zap the Mafia-controlled club Christopher’s End, and then to the former and current 6th Police Precinct Station Houses.
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Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) meeting minutes from June 17, 1971, indicate that the group was planning a march to protest recent increased police harassment of the LGBT community, which would go through Greenwich Village and end at the 6th Police Precinct Station House. It was originally planned for July 4, but a vote was later taken to delay it for three weeks. In the meantime, police raided the after-hours club Christopher’s End, in the Christopher Hotel at 180 Christopher Street, on July 15 and 18. The club, which featured dancing, go-go boys, and a backroom, was operated by Mike Umbers, the notorious “Emperor of Christopher Street” who was an associate of the Gambino crime family. Police smashed its interior, and it has been speculated that this was either because Umbers was not paying them off enough, or that it was ordered by the Gallo crime family in an attempt to eliminate competition in the Village.
When Christopher’s End reopened, it posted a sign “Open Again. Weirdo Sex Inside” which members of the LGBT community found objectionable. A spontaneous demonstration ensued, unaffiliated with any group, but the club’s employees threatened retaliation against GAA. The Executive Committee of GAA then added a zap on the club to be included in its planned march. (See our curated theme for background on the “zap” tactic.)
On Saturday night, July 24, 1971, after its regular dance at the GAA Firehouse ended at 1:30 a.m., about 1,000 GAA members and attendees took to the streets behind GAA’s banner and a sign bearing the message, “Community Demonstration to Protest Syndicate Domination and Police Harassment of Gays.” They walked the length of Christopher Street, picking up an estimated additional 1,000 people who were out late on the weekend night. The crowd demonstrated for about half an hour at Christopher’s End, then marched north. The protest culminated at the former 6th Police Precinct Station House at 135 Charles Street (site of the Snake Pit arrestees in March 1970), and the new station at 231 West 10th Street, which had opened in January 1971.
In 1986, the former Christopher Hotel building opened as Bailey-Holt House, the nation’s first permanent home for people living with AIDS.
Read about other GAA actions, listed in chronological order, in our curated theme.
- Architect or Builder: John B. Franklin (1888)
- Year Built: 1858; 1888; altered 1982
Arthur Bell, “Mike Umbers: The Emperor of Christopher Street,” Village Voice, July 22, 1971, 3, 66.
Duncan Osborne, “Corruption, Before & After Stonewall,” Gay City News, August 2, 2018.
Gay Activists Alliance, Meeting Minutes, June 17 and July 1, 1971.
Greenwich Village Area Gets New Police Station,” The New York Times, January 15, 1971, 7.
Laurie Johnston, “The Talk of Christopher Street,” The New York Times, July 26, 1971, 27.
Morty Manford and Arthur Evans, “The Theory and Practice of Confrontation Tactics, Part 2: The Political Function of Zaps,” GAY, February 26, 1973, 18.