Thirty years ago today on April 28th, 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 mobilized by the then newly formed Queen Nation and years later was found out to be one of the first terrorist bombings on U.S. soil by a radical Islamic group.
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
It wasn’t until 5 years 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 Muslim terrorist ring was actually responsible for making and planting the pipe bomb.
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”
Over three decades later the pipe-bombing of Uncle Charlie’s Downtown, was one of the first terrorist attacks on American soil by radical Islamic groups and is still overlooked by many mainstream historians.
Another in a long line of under-reported and missing pieces of our LGBT history.