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.