Today In Gay History – March 8, 1970: After Stonewall Raids Continue. NYC’s Snake Pit Bar Raided, 167 Arrested

snake pit gay bar raid

March 8th, 1970:

Many people don’t realize that bars raid by the New York police department didn’t end with the Stonewall uprising in the summer of 1969. In fact, the raids continued, virtually uninterrupted with some continuing on into the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

On March 8th. 1970 at about 5:00 a.m in the morning theNew York police descended on the Snake Pit, an after-hours bar at 211 West 1oth. Street in Greenwich Village. Deputy Inspector Seymore Pine (the same Seymore Pine in charge of the raids upon the Stonewall Inn) showed up with a fleet of police wagons, and arrested all 167 customers, staff, and owners and took them to the station house, which violated police policy.

One patron, Diego Vinales, panicked. An immigrant from Argentina who was in the country illegally, he feared what would happen to him in the police station and tried to escape by jumping out a second story window. He landed on a fence below, its 14-inch spikes piercing his leg and pelvis. He was not only critically wounded, but was also charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. As paramedics attended to Vinales, a cop told a fireman, “You don’t have to hurry, he’s dead, and if he’s not, he’s not going to live long,”

“You don’t have to hurry, he’s dead, and if he’s not, he’s not going to live long,”

The Gay Activist Alliance immediately organized a protest for later that night. A pamphlet publicizing the protest read, “Any way you look at it, Diego Vinales was pushed. We are all being pushed. A march on the Sixth Precinct will take place tonight, March 8, at 9 pm, gathering at Sheridan Square. Anyone who calls himself a human being, who has the guts to stand up to this horror, join us. A silent vigil will occur immediately following the demonstration.” Nearly 500 people showed up for an angry and loud but peaceful protest protest to the precinct station on Charles Street, followed by a vigil at St. Vincent’s hospital where Vinales lay in critical condition.

Rep. Edward Koch, who would later become the Mayor of NYC accused NYPD Commissioner Howard Leary of green-lighting the resumption of raids, harassment, and illegal arrests against the gay community. Leary resigned and Seymour Pine was reassigned to the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.

The gay community, which had already witnessed a burst of organizing activity since the Stonewall uprising nine months earlier, became even more politically and socially active, setting the stage for the first Christopher Street Pride March 3 months later on the first anniversary of Stonewall Riots.

 

Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, writer, blogger and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Advocate, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, Raw Story, and The Huffington Post

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2 Responses

  1. Wade says:

    Our history is not always proud, and this is the perfect documentation for future generations. Forgetting the abuses of the past means it will likely repeat itself.

  2. I never heard about this story at the then after-hors gay bar called The Snake Pit from 1970 and it surely was a mafia-run establishment. It sure is a notable one, and points directly to the vicious ignorance, homophobia and outright hate of homosexuals at that time, and particularly to the NYPD ! Gays were largely invisible in those hostile days and tried hard not to draw attention to themselves, for fear of being outed and having their lives ruined. Stonewall was only one year before, in June 1969, and little had changed for the status of gay men and women in society. That very year, in 1970, saw the first mobilized and organized gay rights march on the streets of Greenwich Village, know as: “The Christopher Street Liberation Movement.” It would take another 7 years, in 1977, for gays to move forward and fight nationally against that notorious homophobe and drunk on religion dreg Anita Bryant to launch a campaign of homosexual visibility and demand fair and equal treatment. Her “Save the Children” campaign was a guise under religious freedom to stop homosexuals from standing-up and being counted in those dark and ignorant times.

What do you think?