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Thu Aug 5, 2021, 08:13 AM

On this day, August 5, 1969, the Lonesome Cowboys police raid in Atlanta occurred.

Lonesome Cowboys police raid

On August 5, 1969, the Atlanta Police Department led a police raid on a screening of the film Lonesome Cowboys at a movie theater in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. The raid targeted members of the city's LGBT community, and the aftermath of the raid let to the creation of the Georgia Gay Liberation Front and an increased push for gay liberation in the area. The event has been compared to the Stonewall riots, which occurred a little over a month before the raid. Atlanta Pride, one of the largest pride parades in the United States, was started in part as a response to the raid.


Lonesome Cowboys was a 1968 underground film directed by Andy Warhol that satirized westerns. According to historians Harry M. Benshoff and Sean Griffin, the movie, featuring "sexy cowboys and a cross-dressing sheriff", "explore[d] and exploit[ed] homosocial-homosexual boundaries". A 2021 article in The Emory Wheel stated that the film was "known for featuring same-sex attraction", and it depicted gay sex. While the movie was given a positive review by the LGBT-interest magazine The Advocate, it was critically attacked by many critics for its homosexual elements. Additionally, controversy surrounded both the production and release of the film, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation had monitored both the production and San Francisco premiere, thinking that the film was a national security risk. In London, an entire audience was arrested during a screening of the film. The movie came out during a time when, according to the journal Southern Spaces, there was "continuing public anxiety over and regulation of sex and sexuality, including censorship in print and visual media." A year after the movie's release, the Stonewall riots occurred in New York City. This event is credited with ushering in a new era in the LGBT rights movement, one which saw a more radical approach in the form of gay liberation.

Police raid

At the start of August 1969, Lonesome Cowboys was airing nightly at the Ansley Mall Mini-Cinema, a movie theater in Atlanta. Located in Ansley Park, near the gay neighborhood of Midtown Atlanta, the theater was known for showing indie films and catered to the area's gay community. The night of August 5, just six weeks after the Stonewall riots, the Atlanta Police Department led a police raid on the theater. According to The Atlanta Journal, the police's motives were both to prosecute a violation of obscenity law as well as to identify homosexuals at the screening. The bust happened approximately 15 minutes into the movie and involved 10 police officers, with 3 blocking exits to prevent audience members from getting out. The release print was seized and the theater's manager arrested. Additionally, almost all of the approximately 70 audience members were photographed by the police. Many were also harassed and eventually arrested. Charges against those arrested included public indecency and drug possession, and in an interview later given by the Atlanta Chief of Police to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he stated that the raid targeted "known homosexuals".


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