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10:05 | 18th November 2017

News: World

Tue 25 Jun, 2013
By Robert Ingham


the attacker set fire to the lighter fluid spray onto the steps, igniting a fireball that burst up into the bar

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Remembering New Orleans - 40 years on

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40 years ago, in a gay bar in New Orleans, a horrific attack took place, and 32 people were killed.

On 24th June 1973, it was the last day of national Pride Weekend, and the 4th anniversary of Stonewall. In a world of anti-gay slurs and discrimination, few revelers cared and that Sunday, dozens of members of the Metropolitan Community Church, the nation's first gay Church, gathered at the UpStairs lounge in New Orleans.

To enter, you had to ring the doorbell and then open a steel door that led to the stairs downstairs.

Around 8pm, the doorbell went and, thinking it was a taxi, the bartender Buddy Rasumussen asked his friend Luther Boggs to open the door. As he did, the attacker set fire to the lighter fluid spray onto the steps, igniting a fireball that burst up into the bar.

As people rushed to the windows to escape, they found themselves trapped behind bars that were there to stop people from falling out. Some managed to squeeze through, whilst others were caught in between, perishing in the flames.

The attack is considered the worst LGBT massacre in the USA, and was played down, homophobia being as rife as it was all those years ago. Even family members refused to identify bodies, and the horrific event was trivialised in the press and radio.

A new documentary is set for release this year - "The UpStairs Lounge Fire" from Royd Anderson Productions, and commemorates all those who lost their lives on a night meant for joy and celebration.

 

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