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NYC breaks ground on Stonewall visitor center

Left to right, fashion designer Michael Kors, Ann Marie Gothard, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Google CFO Ruth Porat use ceremonial shovels to lift the symbolic rainbow-colored dirt at the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center groundbreaking ceremony outside of the Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 24, 2022. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

June 24 (UPI) -- City and state leaders broke ground on a new visitor center at the Stonewall National Monument in New York City on Friday, more than five decades after the LGBTQ rights movement was launched there.

The center is expected to open next door to the historic Stonewall Inn in 2024.

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"It started right here and we're so proud of that history," New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said at the groundbreaking ceremony, according to NY1 TV news. "And we cherish that history and we honor that history. And today we begin the groundbreaking for something that's going to be there for generations to come."

The Stonewall riots began in the early hours of June 28, 1969, when police conducted a raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar -- the largest in the United States at the time. Raids on gay bars were routine at the time, but on this particular night, the patrons of the bar resisted.

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A crowd outside the bar grew angry and began throwing objects at police as they attempted to arrest and haul away people from inside the bar. Police barricaded themselves inside the bar to await reinforcements from the fire department and specialists trained in riot control.

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Spontaneous demonstrations broke out at the site and the group marched around the neighborhood, convening at nearby Christopher Park.

The riots and demonstrations were held off and on over the course of another five days or so. For many people in the LGBTQ communities, the Stonewall riots marked the moment when they could move from living their lives in secret to fighting for equal rights and protections.

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Former President Barack Obama in 2016 designated the Stonewall Inn as a national monument as part of the National Parks Service, the first to honor LGBTQ rights.

The new visitor center will be 3,700 square feet in size and feature exhibitions, tours and art displays exploring the history of LGBTQ rights, WCBS-TV in New York City reported.

Hochul said the creation of the center was a "long time coming." She also acknowledged that just hours before the ceremony, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 law that legalized abortion nationwide.

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"We will cherish your rights. We'll honor them and we'll send a message to the rest of the nation. If your state does not respect you, does not treat you with the rights that we think you have here in New York, then what are you doing in those other states? Come to New York."

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