April 28, 1990: Bomb Explodes At Uncle Charlie’s Downtown NYC – First Foreign Terrorist Attack On U.S. Soil

Bomb Explodes At Uncle Charlie's Downtown NYC

On April 28, 1990, a  homemade pipe bomb exploded in a popular gay bar in the West Village of New York City which prompted a massive protest march on Manhattan’s Sixth Precinct station which was mobilized by the then newly formed Queen Nation in one of its first activist actions in the United States.

Uncle Charlie’s Downtown was located at 56 Greenwich Avenue and was a hugely popular gay video bar in the 1980’s and 1990’s,  packed nightly where gay men would gather to drink, watch video,  play pool and cruise.

In the early morning of April 28 at least 3 men were injured when a pipe bomb exploded at about 12:10 A.M.  Sergeant Tina S. Mohrmann described damage to the building as ”minor.” but at that time the NYPD also called it “unrelated” to a hate crime.

One patron at the nightspot, Frizzell Green, said he was standing at the bar when the blast went off in a trash can five to six feet from him, producing a cloud of smoke and sending debris in all directions.

After the NYPD basically dismissed the explosion the newly formed Queer Nation founded by by AIDS activists from ACT UP  mobilized over a 1000 protesters in a matter of hours. The group gathered outside Uncle Charlie’s at 9:30 P.M. then marched their way to the NYPD’s 6th Precinct, blocking traffic at times and chanting ”Hey, hey, ho, ho, homophobia has to go.”  As the march proceeded, many bystanders along the street and in sidewalk restaurants cheered and applauded and joined in

But it wasn’t until 5years later in 1995, just two years before Uncle Charlie’s Downtown would close its doors for good,  that it was discovered that that an extremist radical Muslim terrorist ring was actually responsible for the pipe bomb making the bombing the first foreign terrorist attack on U.S. soil

In the January 14, 1995 article “Man Accused In Terror Plot Bombed Gay Bar, U.S. Says by James C. McKinley Jr. from The New York Times the truth behind the bombing was revealed :

Federal prosecutors plan to present evidence that some of the 12 men charged in a terrorist conspiracy to blow up New York City landmarks were also responsible for a host of other crimes, including the 1990 bombing of a gay bar, international arms smuggling, drug trafficking and the attempted murder of Mikhail S. Gorbachev. In a letter from prosecutors to defense lawyers released yesterday, the prosecutors accuse El Sayyid A. Nosair, one of the alleged leaders of the terrorist ring, of bombing a Greenwich Village gay bar, Uncle Charlie’s, on April 28, 1990, injuring three people. Mr. Nosair, who like the other defendants is Muslim, attacked the bar because he objected to homosexuality on religious grounds, according to the letter.

Nosair was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his “war of urban terrorism”

Lost in history the bombing of Uncle Charlie’s Downtown is the first modern day recorded foreign terrorist attack on American soil in United States history.

Another in a long line of under-reported and missing pieces of our LGBT history.

 

 

Uncle Charlies all

 

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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8 Responses

  1. DeaconMac says:

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been obsessed with remembering and restoring lgbt history, but this is a piece of our history that I had forgotten about.

  2. Gary Armstrong says:

    I was there the night it went off…I was standing exactly at the garbage can where it was hidden, then went around the corner to watch a Madonna video…and then two minutes later: “Pow!”…half the crowd ran into the street, and the other half stood there in a daze nursing their drinks…

    • Ric Weaver says:

      I was also there that night and I’ve been telling people about that night for years, but had never heard anymore about it. I was also standing about six feet from the trash can and I remember those moments being in slow motion – the smoke, the flash, debris falling, and then people running to get out. My roommate was one of those leaning against the bar nursing his drink in a daze.

  3. JT says:

    Gay activists will always hide from this story. Not politically correct. Andrew Towle and Michelangelo Signorile even espouse (in a truly self-hating manner) to bring millions more Muslim refugees into the u.S. (even though these refugees are already guilty of gaybashings and mass rapes after entering Europe).

    • designck1 says:

      It’s necessary to be able to differentiate between terrorists and people from the Muslim ethnic background. Many who count themselves as Christian would balk at being called a terrorist like Timothy McVeigh, no so? Understand that trashing Andy and Michelangelo for considering the humanity of people caught in the middle east crossfire is not the self-hating you espouse, but compassion…. something which is a sad loss in a community that demands respect and compassion…. Allowing ourselves to feel compassion for them does not mean we have to stay silent on any anti-gay rhetoric that some may proclaim, but gives us a chance to speak out against them. That’s my opinion on this….

  4. Mattster says:

    Thanks for shedding light on this much-neglected piece of history. However, the first case of modern terrorism on our soil would probably be the car bombing committed by Chile in Washington DC in 1976, also much forgotten.

  5. Rick says:

    Not sure this was the first foreign terrorist attack on U.S. soil. There was an island (Black Tom Island?) used as a military ammo dump during WWI (1916), which was blown up by German operatives. The question I suppose is was it an act of terrorism or just depriving the U.S. military of ammunition? The U.S. was not yet in the war.

  1. June 13, 2016

    […] Downtown located at 56 Greenwich Avenue, NYC. There were no fatalities and just minor injuries. In 1995 it was discovered that that an extremist radical Muslim terrorist ring was actually responsible for the pipe […]

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