40 Years Later, NYPD Cop Stands Behind Stonewall’s Raid


What if, some 40 years ago on Sunday, the NYPD had never raided a certain bar on New York City’s Christopher Street? No arrests, no fighting with cops, no biting. And perhaps: No single event to spearhead the now decades-old struggle for gay rights.

Despite the fracas and the public shaming, what the gay men and women who were enjoying themselves at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, did was monumental: They fought back, and helped light a movement. They rested control over their own lives and kickstarted what would end up being our current fight with the White House and Congress for our rights.

Sure, something else might have happened in the past 40 years to do something similar, but that’s not how history played out. While activists were working to generate acceptance for gays before Stonewall, it wasn’t until that night America at large knew just how prevalent our community was.

But what if the cops never came? We’ll never know how that scenario would’ve gone down, but when you quiz an 89-year-old former cop who was part of the raid that night, it’s clear the Stonewall riots were destined to happen. And Seymour Pine, then the NYPD’s deputy inspector, has no regrets: “Yes, of course” the police did the right thing, Pine said in an interview with The Brian Lehrer Show. “When we took the action that we took that night, we were on the side of right. We never would have done something without supervision from the federal authorities and the state authorities. They were involved with this just as well as we were.” Insists Pine: “I don’t think not liking gay people had anything to do with it.”

Fortunately for us, history will be written by the victors: us.

UPDATE: Turns out, Mr. Pine previously apologized for the raid and admitted the cops were biased against gays. “They certainly were prejudiced. There was no question about that.” But they reason they raided Stonewall? “We weren’t concerned about gays. We were concerned about the Mafia.” Nevermind that arresting the gays was also an easy way to plump up a cop’s arrest record.

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  • Betty Badge

    “When we took the action that we took that night, we were on the side of right. We never would have done something without supervision from the federal authorities and the state authorities. They were involved with this just as well as we were.” Insists Pine: “I don’t think not liking gay people had anything to do with it.”

    Ahhhh, Pining for the good old days of police corruption and Mafia payoffs.

    To a small degree, he may have a point. If you’ve lived near, or adjacent to, or above (as I have) a sleazy bar that was a loud, public nuisance, and where drug dealing and prostitution were commonplace, then you might see the police as acting for the public good.

    But I don’t believe for an instant that they weren’t discriminatorily targeting and harassing and abusing gays, lesbians and trannies. And I’m damned happy and indebted that the trannies and everybody else fought back.

  • homofied

    Operational advice for the men in blue: Never get in the way of a gay man and his cocktails.

  • galefan2004

    The truth is that he probably feels like he was following orders and upholding the law. It was his duty as an officer to do just that. Police need to enforce the law rather they agree with it or not. However, that doesn’t mean the law was right, but I don’t blame the officers for Stonewall. I blame the bigoted legislature that made those laws in the first place.

  • hand

    the last sentence of this piece is creepy! but yah, stonewall was def. the result of anti-gay bias

  • Anarchos

    They didn’t “rest” control over their own lives. They WRESTED control of it.

  • DM73

    Well, I do blame the officers on what happened in Stonewall. Because they didn’t get their Mafia bribe on time on a prior raid a few nights before to “avert their eyes” of the queer scourge, combined with their well known hatred of queers and a hot summer night is the true reason behind it. Not the law. The law came into play when the green faded away. As with everything in life, look at Albany right now. Stonewall was bound to happen because enough was enough; it just happened to be that weekend 40 years ago that we’re proudly commerating this weekend. Officer Pine’s declarations of just doing his duty don’t stand. Following orders is never a legal defense. It’s a cop-out. As for bringing in the Feds? For dirty glasses in a bar, watered down booze and the such? Puh-leeze. Why arrest the patrons? Why not arrest the bar owners during daylight hours? On the side of right? Didn’t police in the South say the same on not allowing minorities their civil rights as they hosed them down and threw tear gas? The recent Nixon tapes release on his view on Abortion, where he says it would be okay in cases of rape or “white and a black”, shows the mentality that was prevalent in our government then. Officer Pine is a bigoted coot who continues to view us as sub-human thus “he was on the right side”. Screw him. Age doesn’t mellow bigots either. Remember the shooting in Washington D.C.’s Holocaust Museum, done by an 88 year old…James von der Brunn. Never underestimate your enemies.

  • RegGuy815

    It’s sad with the passing of 40 years, that the police officer involved in the Stonewall Riots does not take advantage of hindsight and acknowledge that persecuting a group of people for their sexual orientation is simply wrong–both then and now. You would hope that with age you gain perspective you may not have had, and as a result you become more enlightened.

  • galefan2004

    @DM73: You know what, I was all going to argue against you on this, but the truth is, you kind of have a point. Its easy to look at the police today and think that they are just following orders and that they shouldn’t be blamed for upholding the law even when they don’t agree with it, but honestly, the police have come a long way in the last 40 years. The civil rights atrocities that happened during this time were insane. This was back in the days when they could enter your home without a warrant if the door was unlocked and they could beat you till you confessed. Thankfully, we have come a long way since this time.

  • Michael @

    Fortunately “history” is being written by someone other than the author of this preface who seems to have depended entirely too much on a cheap cocktail of myth and misinformation with a chaser of idealized nonsense.

    I respectfully suggest anyone genuinely interested in knowing the whole fascinating story read David Carter’s “Stonewall” [and not wait for the documentary in progress].

    I also respectfully suggest that you be more respectful in your choice of words that, however unintentionally, demean those who worked for gay rights long before that night and with far more to lose than most of those at the Stonewall that night [few of which played ANY role in “the movement” after that week]. And many of their predecessors did lose jobs, families, etc., going all the way back to Henry Gerber who was fired from his post office job after creating the Society for Human Rights in Chicago FORTY-FIVE YEARS BEFORE Stonewall. Also see Queerty’s own separate thread today about Frank Kameny.

    There’s more.

    1. Hmmm, you’d think word of Stonewall was Twittered around the world. Of course there was none, not even a public Internet or e-mail or cell phones. In fact, “that night” was almost totally IGNORED by MSM even in NYC and “America at large” didn’t begin to understand “just how prevalent our community was” until the anniversary the next year and New York’s Gay Activist Alliance zaps of the mayor, et al., a couple of years after that began to generate some national headlines.

    2. I don’t have time to read the linked interview but if Pine is referring to the story that the subject of that particular raid was a blackmail ring they thought connected to THE MAFIA-OWNED bar, he’s technically right. The precinct normally involved in symbolic suppression raids [and were paid by the owners for tip offs ahead of time] wasn’t even told that this multi agency raid was going to happen.

    But the patrons thought it was just another antigay raid and the mood of the times was right for such reaction. If it hadn’t happened that night, regardless of the cops’ motivation, it would have happened another very soon. BUT imagining them as a roomful of Harvey Milks is silly.

    But not as dangerous as galefan2004’s nonsense. You just supported the “Eichmann Defense” used by its namesake to excuse his transporting millions of Jews and others to their deaths because he was “just following orders.”

  • galefan2004

    @RegGuy815: Unfortunately, age doesn’t provide perspective and new wisdom for most when it comes to bigotry. It just provides you with more ways to enforce your bigotry.

  • marius

    Have cops changed that much?

    I don’t think the majority have.

  • marius


    majority has? I suck at English.

    ‘Scuse me.

  • galefan2004

    @marius: What exactly do you mean? Are cops still homophobic? I don’t know how I would answer that, but I do know that my first visit to Akron, Ohio back in the days when I still had pride stickers on my car got me pulled over for doing absolutely nothing. When I told him I was going to the gay bar he accused me of being drunk or on drugs. Then he accused me of having drugs in my car, so I made them search my car. Then after they couldn’t find anything in my car, they made me do all of the sobriety tests. I had to say the ABC’s backwards. So I did it, and when I got to A, I said “A SIR!” and really got up in his face with my voice. Apparently that was enough to end the torture I went through that night in my welcome to Akron confrontation with the police department. So, if your question is rather cops stopped being homophobic assholes that are power hungry, I think the answer would be no. Fortunately, the 70s and 80s saw great progress made in stripping the rights the cops had to infringe on civil liberties that existed and expanding more civil liberties. Hell, it wasn’t till some time in 1980 that the “fleeing felon policy” (which allowed all cops to shoot any individuals feeling law enforcement) was legally abolished.

  • DM73

    As with all things in American society, progressive change happens and as slow as it does happen, it slowly filters into its institutions. In our time, the NYPD marches in Pride events. Raids still occur today (liquor license issues/drugs/prostition and the like) and thankfully the patrons aren’t the focus of the police’s ire as in times passed. The ire is directed properly at the business. Often places are closed before they’re opened to the public. It’s still a reasonable debate if the NYPD targets LGBT businesses more often than not.
    The point is for Officer Pine to truly believe nothing wrong happened that summer in the raids he helped perpetuate and organize is really shitty. But bigots are bigots. And they’ll justify their actions with the law, the bible or whatever suits their “moral” beliefs.

  • Cam

    This is also a demonstration that sometimes you can’t be silent. Things changed after Stonewall, not before when gays were sitting back and trying to be quiet and good. Just like now, we are getting some movement from Congress after thretening to boycott their fundraiser.

  • Michael @


    “not before when gays were sitting back and trying to be quiet and good”

    Now is not then…you’re only showing your stupidity to even remotely suggest the options were the same. You might as well flame the first people who helped paved the way for Stonewall and TODAY for not using Blueray DVD players.

    And A-gays boycotting a dinner, as great as it is, is nothing compared to risking your job by being interviewed on TV and radio as some gays did several years before Stonewall.

  • Rudy

    “I was just following orders” – it’s called the Nuremberg Defense.

  • Michael @


    We’re both right.

    “Eichmann, speaking in his own defense, said that he did not dispute the facts of what happened during the Holocaust. During the whole trial, Eichmann insisted that he was only “following orders”—the same Nuremberg Defense used by some of the Nazi war criminals during the 1945–1946 Nuremberg Trials.”

  • drresol

    @Michael @

    I’ve read that book (Stonewall). I remember finding it very fascinating that a lot of what you thought about the riot wasn’t right…or at least, there was a lot more to it than what you thought. The mob connections, the conditions of the bar itself, not to mention how very different “queer culture” was back then. I think if any of us could travel back in time and visit the bar for a night, we’d scarcely recognize gay culture as we know it today.

  • Religion_Hurts

    @galefan2004: “Are cops still homophobic?”

    The religious ones are. As long as we have religion, we have hatred of homosexuals. You can’t be a christian, jew, muslim, hindu or many of the others, without making gay WRONG.

    Until we stop letting gay be made “wrong” there will be hatred and discrimination.

    There is nothing wrong with me, but religion hurts – make it stop.

  • drresol


    I’ll have to respectfully disagree. Religion and/or the bible is certainly *used* as an excuse to hate gays while feeling justified by some…but we hardly have a monopoly on that scenario. The bible has been used for that a lot in the past. Per example…the bible has a LOT more to say about restricting womens rights, and for a long time those particular verses were taken very literally…that is until modern social attitudes began to shift towards female equality. Suddenly modern religion began to *gasp* realize those scriptures, uhrm, shouldn’t be taken quite so-not so-maybe not literally…er, you have to understand them in context…the era, the culture they were written in…they didn’t really mean that even though they said that, they meant wargarblegarble…

    BTW, I’m not trying to defend religion, necessarily. I’m just saying I don’t think it has to be *abolished* before we can have rights. If current social trends begin to tip towards accepting us gays, they’ll eventually explain away those 5-6 throw-away verses in much the same way. If they want to remain socially relevant, they can’t risk being marginalized. They are, essentially, a business after all.

  • Religion_Hurts

    @drresol: You apparently would be satisfied with being tolerated. I’m not. Religion made up the idea that gay is wrong. Nothing else did – just religion.

    I am not wrong and I do not wish to be tolerated. I am going to do something about the single source of gay suffering and discrimination – religion. The only excuse for religion is ignorance – the smarter, more informed society gets the less we buy the religious crap.

    Aside from the pain inflicted on gays, I see no reason to continue the institution of religion. Religion is responsible for most of the wars and terrorism (and death) in our history. Some people wish to save religion because it gives society “morals.” Places like Denmark (very little religion) have little to no crime and they appear to be happy. or, we hear about “helping the poor.” We don’t know how true that is because they do not release their financials. Maybe we should see their books. I know the Catholic Church has billions of dollars in real estate and many poor, inner-city kids are hungry.

    If you know of a verifiable reason to preserve religion please share. Historians and scholars have concluded that simply isn’t the case.

    Finally, BEFORE religion gay was okay. AFTER religion gay was wrong. It’s time to end this wrong.

  • M Shane

    The fact that State and Federal Authorities had to do with it may mean that the NYPD didn’t hate gays But it sure means that someone did. The NYPD were being paid buckets as police everywhere have been to allow Bars etc to stay open.
    Who hated the gays and ordered the acton is irrelivant.

    Unfortunately the movement started by Stonewall. has been dead since Andrew Sullivan decided to close down the gay liberation movement 20 years ago, and current Mainstreaming politics buried it.

    Hopefully when Assimilation politics dies out, people will not forget that at the beginning some people started out wanting to be themselves authentically, not mimics of breeders.

  • rick

    good lord the cop is a moron. there are history books on the subject of new york and its anti gay laws. we know why stonewall was raided.

  • galefan2004

    @Religion_Hurts: Dude, I will two things: 1) You don’t give up! 2) You certainly believe religion is hatred.

    I respect your fight at this point. Maybe you will be the one to truly weaken religion.

  • TikiHead

    We need a new Godwin’s Law for gay threads. Calling people assimilationist is BS.

  • Religion_Hurts

    @galefan2004: Thank-you. It’s time for this fight. Stay tuned.

  • C-Teller


    No. The argument has merit. Godwin’s usually uses extreme and inappropriate exaggerations.

  • strumpetwindsock


    Specifically it means inappropriate Nazi references.

    But TikiHead is correct, IMO. The ghetto mentality that pervades this site is childish and does nothing but hurt us.

    The notion that gay people cannot have children, get married, be religious, accept support from or even talk with straight people because we might become like them is ridiculous.

    It is also very anti-gay to think that our culture is so delicate that it will somehow disappear upon contact with straight people.
    And isn’t it giving straights a lot of power to insist on defining ourselves by being the opposite of them?

    The most absurd notion is that our opponents will somehow magically die out if we do absolutely nothing but gaze in the mirror and think about how special we are.

  • C-Teller


    I was comparing it to the term “assimilationist” which is nowhere near it. I already knew what Godwin’s meant. It’s fine if you don’t like the argument but trying to discredit it by giving a silly name does nothing.

    The rest of your comment is one big straw man. Assimilationist are people who want others to change [or just disappear, transgender people are a good example] who they are in order to be accepted as a regular person.

    “The ghetto mentality that pervades this site is childish and does nothing but hurt us.”

    Define “ghetto mentality”.

  • strumpetwindsock


    I know you were referring to assimilationist references, not Godwinisms, and I just stated why I think they are utter nonsense.
    Really, I think they are a poor excuse to discredit someone.

    Ghetto mentality? I believe I also touched on that. It is the fear of doing anything that can be remotely associated with straight people for fear that it will make us become the same as them in some way that will make us disappear. Me, I have no fear of being an open and productive member of society.

    I think it’s nonsense, but I have sure heard that sentiment a lot here.

  • strumpetwindsock

    Actually I am quite happy being a regular person (though not everything about me is what some might consider regular) . It means that others have to deal with me and accept me for who I am> I’m not the one who has to accommodate or hide.

    Perhaps you should tell me what it is you want to be.

  • TANK

    The notion that gay people cannot have children, get married, be religious, accept support from or even talk with straight people because we might become like them is ridiculous.

    You mean should not, because some gay people are religious. Some gay people are mass murderers, too.

    (though not everything about me is what some might consider regular)

    Metamucil not working?

  • C-Teller


    I’ve been at Queerty for awhile using various names of the day an I can’t say I’ve seen that here at all. I actually see more of the opposite but I won’t discount your experiences.

    “Me, I have no fear of being an open and productive member of society.”

    What are you implying?


    I don’t see how that’s relevant. I never asked or told you what you wanted to be I just defined what an assimilationist was.

    Also I looked back up to find where you or someone else were called “assimlationist” and I can’t seem to find it. There was a person talking about Assimlationist Politics.

  • strumpetwindsock


    And you equate the two?

    How about you? Proud to define yourself as ab-normal?

    Go back and read #23

    You said the argument had merit, and I have read your other comments, Please at least have the guts to stand behind your words and not play games like a child.

Comments are closed.