Veterans from the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) will be holding a torchlight rally this Friday to mark 50 years since the first LGBT protest in Britain.

The rally was held to highlight anti-gay laws and police harassment, specifically in response to the arrest of the then leader of the Young Liberals, Louis Eaks, in Highbury Fields, Islington.

The veterans and allies will meet at 6 pm in Highbury Fields, opposite Highbury and Islington tube station, beside the pink triangle plaque that commemorates the protest that happened there 50 years ago.

To conform to lockdown regulations, participants will wear masks, remain in two-person groups and keep socially distanced from each other.  

 “27th November 1970 was a watershed moment that challenged police persecution for the first time in the UK. It began our fightback, igniting an LGBT+ protest movement that in the following five decades rolled back straight supremacism and won the repeal of anti-LGBT+ laws,” said Peter Tatchell, who was a member of GLF 1971-74.

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This 50th commemoration, we will replicate the torchlight rally of 50 years ago and read the original Gay Liberation Front demands A plaque commemorating the protest on 27 November 1970 was affixed to the former public toilet by the LGBT+ group OutRage! and Islington Council.

It was unveiled on 27 November 2000, on the 30th anniversary of the first demonstration, in the presence of then Culture Secretary Chris Smith MP, local MP Jeremy Corbyn, the Mayor of Islington, and GLF veterans.

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86 and sending love

“In 1970 I suggested that the Gay Liberation Front’s first demo ought to be in Highbury Fields against the arrest of Louis Eaks. I’m now 86 and send my love. I remind everyone that the word for the Highbury Fields demo, in the slang of 1970, was a ‘zap’, meaning a bolt of electrical energy. Highbury Fields forever! In solidarity and disgrace.” Eric Thompson

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“From the dark of Highbury Fields to the light of the pub afterwards, we saw each other anew. We had shared our beliefs and convictions in public and acted them out in the world. We had made the first-ever openly public demonstration in this country by homosexuals. Whatever barriers there were between us were let down that night. An emotional connection of solidarity and respect, for ourselves and each other, was forged. It remains palpable to this day.” Stuart Feather, author of the Gay Liberation Front memoir, Blowing the Lid.

A defining moment in LGBT history

a plague marking the the first ever gay liberation front protest

“Highbury Fields was a UK defining moment in a global LGBT+ uprising and revolution against oppression and for liberation with sexual liberation at its heart.” John Lloyd

“In 1970 gay men, lesbians and trans people protested together on Highbury Fields, not just about police abuse of power and unjust laws, but also for liberation, including sexual liberation for everyone – a revolution. Love and liberation.” Nettie Pollard.

“Marking the 50th anniversary of the first LGBT protest in London is of paramount importance today in bringing together queer individuals spanning multiple generations in order that we can celebrate and learn from those who have continuously fought for our rights over the last 50 years.” Graham Martin