(1946 - 1993) U.S.A.
Founding president of the Gay Activists Alliance of New York (1969), the largest militant gay rights organization in the U.S.; the first openly gay man to run for public office in New York City (1973).
On March 5, 1970, after a few months of planning for and engaging in smaller actions, the GAA descended on New York City's City Hall for what it hoped to be a major action.
Unbeknownst to GAA members, who planned to enter the building and demand that Mayor John Lindsay take a public stance against job discrimination and police harassment of gays and lesbians, the police had been tipped off and the activists were greeted by a large presence of New York City police officers.
Although all "private citizens" were allowed to enter City Hall, the police announced that GAA - a public advocacy group - could not enter the building. Jim Owles, who friends later described as "the scrappiest little faggot in New York City," tried to break through the police line, prompting the police to erect barricades around the GAA members.
Jim Owles, President of Gay Activists Alliance (GAA), submits to arrest on the steps of City Hall, New York City, June 25, 1971. Photo by Grey Villet
After hours of picketing and chanting from the GAA, an advisor to Mayor Lindsay agreed to meet with Jim Owles and Arthur Bell. While the advisor explained that Lindsay was sensitive to "the homosexual issue," Owles insisted on a public declaration of support from the Mayor's Office; in the end, GAA received only noncommittal assurances that its concerns were being taken seriously.
As they left, Arthur Bell "reasoned that it was best to remain prepared to attack whoever attacked the community next." He did not have to wait long.