1966 Vanguard Sweep

Unfinished History

On a June night in 1966, a group of gay and transgendered youth gathered on the streets of San Francisco’s low-income Tenderloin district.


Tenderloin youth protest police sweeps with a tongue-in-cheek "street sweep" protest. 1966.

Photo: GLBT Historical Society

The city was then a national destination for GLBT youth, many of them disowned by their families. Too young to find legitimate work, they banded together for safety in a neighborhood known for its low-rent apartments, cheap hamburger stands, and gay bars plagued by police raids. Many succumbed to drug abuse and violent deaths.

This particular night was different. Three years before New York City’s Stonewall riots, youth held signs demanding rights. With supportive clergy at their side, they chanted and marched on the street. TV and radio reporters recorded as they spoke out against discrimination. They called themselves Vanguard. They are now considered the first gay liberation organization in the country.


Vanguard posing after the sweep, June 1966.

Photo: GLBT Historical Society

This material is adapted with permission from the GLBT History website.

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