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This week in history: A raid at a gay bar

On June 28, 1969, a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York City kicked off the gay rights movement. Here’s a look at what police raids on gay bars looked like in the Chicago area.

The back of Louie’s Fun Lounge in Leyden
This Chicago Daily News photograph shows the back of Louie’s Fun Lounge in Leyden Twp. where police conducted a raid on the gay bar on April 25, 1964.
From the Sun-Times archives

As published in the Chicago Daily News, sister publication of the Chicago Sun-Times:

On June 28, 1969, New York City police officers conducted a raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. Activists — many of them people of color and some transgender — rioted against police harassment and brutality as well as mafia extortion that plagued the gay community where the law prevented them from even meeting in public. The riots and protests continued for six days.

Two years later, thousands of people returned on the anniversary of the riots and held the Christopher Street Liberation Day march, which later evolved into the pride parades we know today.

Before Stonewall (and for some time afterward), a police raid on a gay bar could be disastrous for those arrested. Not only would the raid likely make the papers the next day, as a raid at Louie’s Fun Lounge in Leyden Twp. did on April 25, 1964, but those arrested saw their names printed along with their addresses and occupations.

“Subsequently there were reports of job losses and a rumored suicide,” reporter Marie J. Kuda wrote of the incident for the Windy City Times in 2008.

Being an afternoon paper, the Chicago Daily News caught the story the day the raid happened and ran it on the front page with a big, two-tier headline reading, “8 teachers, suburb principal seized/109 arrested in vice den.” A photo of those arrested at the Criminal Court Building, many covering their faces with their hands or turning away completely, ran with the story.

The paper referred to the lounge as “a hangout for deviates.”

“Ninety-seven men, six male juveniles and six women were taken from the tavern to the Criminal Court Building in two sheriff’s buses and three squadrols for processing,” the paper reported. “Uncut marijuana valued at $500 and 500 barbiturate pills and capsules were confiscated in the raid led by Richard S. Cain, chief investigator for Sheriff Ogilvie.”

Police also arrested Lewis F. Gauger, who the paper described as the “270-pound owner-operator” and “an avowed friend of crime syndicate boss Tony Accardo.”

Cain told reporters the sheriff’s office spent months collecting evidence of narcotics at the lounge, which stood in an area referred to as “Glitter Gulch.”

“There is no sign outside announcing it is a lounge, and no exterior lights,” the paper said. “[Cain] said prospective patrons must knock on a speakeasy-type door and be scrutinized by a doorman before they are allowed to enter.”

Inside the lounge, Cain said his team found men “dancing together and engaging in lewd acts” as well as pot in the bathroom and barbituates near the bar, the paper reported.

The Daily News printed a partial list of those arrested at the end of the article on the fourth page of the paper, but it named the teachers, school officials, suburban principal and police and county employees in the story. Nearly all names included ages, addresses and places of work.