I had happily forgotten about this. After all, it was just one of many that continued after the Stonewall Riots. Found this item over at Box Turtle Bulletin and realized, hey! I was there. I was not quite 24 that winter, working long hours (noon to midnight) and fast becoming what we used to call a "nightcrawler" - and these illegal after hours places were where we thought we'd not be bothered. Someone didn't pay off the right people, I guess. What did we know?
New York Police Raid the Snake Pit: 1970. It may come as a surprise to those who are not of a certain age, but raids on gay bars by the New York police department didn’t end with the Stonewall uprising in the summer of 1969. In fact, raids continued, virtually uninterrupted. At about 5:00 a.m. of March 8, 1970, New York police descended on the Snake Pit, an after-hours unlicensed bar in Greenwich Village. Deputy Inspector Seymore Pine showed up with a fleet of police wagons, and without bothering to sort out the owners from the clientele, arrested all 167 customers and took them to the station house, an act 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,” sparking a false rumor that Vinales had died.Following on that rumor, 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 9pm, 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 the protest. After Rep. Edward Koch accused New York City Police Commissioner Howard Leary of green-lighting the resumption of raids and illegal illegal arrests on the gay community, Leary resigned and Pine was reassigned to Flatbush in Brooklyn. And 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 a very successful Christopher Street commemoration later that Summer for the first anniversary of Stonewall.
Many legal (meaning they paid off) establishments were hurting because of the intimidation of the police. During a raid *everyone* was taken to the precinct, though not always arrested. After the raid, and when the bar was eventually allowed to reopen, there would be cop stationed at the door checking identification, and writing everything on a tablet. (there were no computers back then.) Scary stuff when being out at the time could mean the end of your career, and life as you would like it to be.
Another bit of forgotten history, remembered.
And so it goes.