Thursday, September 9, 2010

RIP Inspector Pine

Seymour Pine, who died last week at 91, was a crucial figure in LGBT history. A less likely candidate you never saw.

In 1969, Pine commanded the New York Police Department's vice squad for Lower Manhattan. On June 28, he led eight officers on a raid of the Stonewall Inn.

You know what happened next. The L's, G's, B's and many T's fought back. The pumps and purses were a'flying. The Stonewall riots lasted for several nights, and had a profound effect all over the world.

"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," author David Carter told The New York Times.

On that hot June night, Seymour Pine, WWII veteran and father of two, walked into the illegal gay club and tripped right into history.

He spoke at the New York Historical Society in 2004 on the uprising. Back in '69 the police "certainly were prejudiced" against gays, Pine said, "but had no idea about what gay people were about."

They could've asked. But I digress.

Pine insisted the cops routinely raided gay clubs because many clubs were controlled by organized crime. Also, officers saw arresting gays as a means to boost their arrest totals. "They were easy arrests," he said. "They never gave you any trouble." Well, alllllllmost never.

Someone in the audience at the Historical Society stated Pine should apologize for the raid. He did. Classy fellow.

“There’s been a stereotype that Seymour Pine was a homophobe,” David Carter said. “He had some of the typical hang-ups and preconceived ideas of the time, but I think he was strictly following orders, not personal prejudice against gay people.”

“He once told me,” Carter said, “‘If what I did helped gay people, then I’m glad.’”

It did help. Perversely, we thank you for arresting us. You pissed us off beyond endurance, and things haven't been the same since. You belong in our pantheon. Make sure that uniform is pressed.