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Thousands mark 50 years after Stonewall LGBTQ2 rebellion in New York

Crowds participate in the second annual Stonewall Day honouring the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, hosted by Pride Live and iHeartMedia, in Greenwich Village, Friday, June 28, 2019, in New York. Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP

Thousands of people converged Friday on the Stonewall Inn for the 50th anniversary of the rebellion that catalyzed a movement for LGBTQ2 liberation, marking the milestone with celebrity performances, speeches and personal reflections.

READ MORE: What are the Stonewall riots? How a gay bar raid started an uprising and LGBTQ2 Pride

People from New York and afar came to take photos and share in the legacy of the gay bar where patrons resisted a police raid, sparking protests and longer-term organizing that made the cause considerably more visible.

“Fifty years ago, people stood up for their rights, and look where we’re at now. We’ve got flags all over the city,” said Richard Walker, 58, an airline worker from New York. “I’m getting goosebumps just really thinking about it.”

With the modern incarnation of the Stonewall Inn as the focal point, the day’s celebrations included music, speeches and an evening rally. Lady Gaga, Whoopi Goldberg, Alicia Keys, drag performers and other artists at the advocacy organization Pride Live’s Stonewall Day Concert addressed a crowd that stretched for blocks on a nearly 90-degree afternoon.

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WATCH: Wilson Cruz, T.R. Knight Reflect On 50th Anniversary Of Stonewall Riots

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Wilson Cruz, T.R. Knight Reflect On 50th Anniversary Of Stonewall Riots – Jun 20, 2019

“This community has fought and continued to fight a war of acceptance, a war of tolerance,” Lady Gaga said. “You are the definition of courage.”

Robert Beaird traveled from Dallas to attend the Stonewall anniversary events a couple of years after coming out in his 50s.

“I just kind of hid who I was for my whole life, and then within the last two years, I’ve been going through this kind of cathartic experience of accepting myself,” said Beaird, 53, who had been married and fathered children. “Just to be here with all these people is pretty amazing.”

Jocelyn Burrell isn’t gay, but she made her way to the Stonewall Inn because she was struck by how welcoming it was when she stopped in there years ago, and she feels a sense of common cause with its place in history.

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READ MORE: Apology for Stonewall Inn raid in 1969 delivered by New York City police

“Just like we fought — black people fought — for civil rights, I feel I should support other people who fight for civil rights,” she said.

Friday’s events were kicking off a big weekend of Pride festivities in New York and elsewhere. In New York, Sunday’s huge WorldPride parade — and an alternative march intended as a less corporate commemoration of Stonewall — also will swing past the bar.

Cities around the world began celebrating Pride on Friday. Participants in a march in the Philippines went by the presidential palace in Manila, waving placards as they marked the 25th year since the first such gathering.

The Stonewall Inn is now a landmark and part of the Stonewall National Monument, but in 1969, it was part of a gay scene that was known, yet not open. At the time, showing same-sex affection or dressing in a way deemed gender-inappropriate could get people arrested, and bars had lost liquor licenses for serving LGBTQ2 customers.

WATCH: How the Stonewall riots fuelled fight for LGBTQ rights

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How the Stonewall riots fuelled fight for LGBTQ rights – May 12, 2019
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