Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Brody's Notes... Key Stonewall Riot Figure Dies At Age 91

By Brody Levesque (Washington DC) SEPT 8 | The New York City Police Official who led the raid on the Stonewall Inn, which touched off the the LGBT Equality Rights movement, died last Thursday according to his obituary published today by The New York Times.
NYPD Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine, was commander of the department's Vice Squad for Lower Manhattan, when at 1:20 in the morning on Saturday, June 28, 1969,  the Inspector, Detective Charles Smythe and four plainclothes policemen accompanied by two patrol officers in uniform from the 6th Precinct, walked into the Stonewall Inn and announced "Police! We're taking the place!" Two undercover policewomen and two undercover policemen had entered the bar previously that evening to gather visual evidence, as the NYPD's Vice Squad waited outside for the signal to conduct the raid.
Howard Smith, a freelance writer for The Village Voice newspaper, in his published eyewitness account, described what happened next:
"The music was turned off and the main lights were turned on. Approximately 200 people were in the bar that night. Patrons who had never experienced a police raid were confused, but a few who realized what was happening began to run for doors and windows in the bathrooms. Police barred the doors, and confusion spread.
The raid did not go as planned. Standard procedure was to line up the patrons, check their identification, and have female police officers take customers dressed as women to the bathroom to verify their sex, upon which any men dressed as women would be arrested. Those dressed as women that night refused to go with the officers. Men in line began to refuse to produce their identification. The police decided to take everyone present to the police station, and separated the transvestites in a room in the back of the bar.
The police were to transport the bar's alcohol in patrol wagons, but the patrol wagons had not yet arrived, so patrons were required to wait handcuffed in line for about 15 minutes. Those who were not arrested were released from the front door, but they did not leave quickly as usual. Instead, they stopped outside and a crowd began to grow and watch. Within minutes, between 100 and 150 people had congregated outside, some after they were released from inside the Stonewall, and some after noticing the police cars and the crowd. Although the police forcefully pushed or kicked some patrons out of the bar, some customers released by the police performed for the crowd by posing and saluting the police in an exaggerated fashion. The crowd's applause encouraged them further."
Inspector Pine later recalled that the crowd—most of whom were homosexual—had grown to at least ten times the number of people who were arrested.  The mood shifted and got ugly with crowd growing shouting taunts at the officers and then the actual riot commenced when a Lesbian resisted being shoved forcibly into a patrol vehicle and the crowd rushed at the officers who retreated, some back into the Inn.  Some of the crowd ripped a parking meter off its base to use as a battering ram on the Inn's entrance while yet others attempted to set fire to the building.
The incident set off several days of rioting eventually quelled by the NYPD but as the author of 'Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked The Gay Revolution,' [published in 2004]  David Carter, noted in a 2004 interview:
“The Stonewall uprising is the signal event in American gay and lesbian civil rights history because it transformed a small movement that existed prior to that night into a mass movement. It is to the gay movement what the fall of the Bastille is to the unleashing of the French Revolution."
NYPD Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine  Photo By News Corp
NY Times Staff Writer Dennis Hevesi writes:
In 2004, Inspector Pine spoke during a discussion of the Stonewall uprising at the New-York Historical Society. At the time of the raid, he said, the police “certainly were prejudiced” against gays, “but had no idea about what gay people were about.”
The department regularly raided gay clubs for two reasons, he said. First, he insisted, many clubs were controlled by organized crime; second, arresting gay people was a way for officers to improve their arrest numbers. “They were easy arrests,” he said. “They never gave you any trouble” — at least until that night.
When someone in the audience said Inspector Pine should apologize for the raid, he did.


Desmond Rutherford said...

We need a movie to be made of this event, a real movie like Milk, to remind everyone to protect what Stonewall began, our freedom and our equality.