Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Leader of Stonewall Raid Dies

Seymour Pine, the police inspector who led the raid on the Stonewall Inn in 1969, has died at the age of 91. Read his obituary in the New York Times.

In 2004, Inspector Pine spoke during a discussion of the Stonewall uprising at the New-York Historical Society. At the time of the raid, he said, the police “certainly were prejudiced” against gays, “but had no idea about what gay people were about.”

The department regularly raided gay clubs for two reasons, he said. First, he insisted, many clubs were controlled by organized crime; second, arresting gay people was a way for officers to improve their arrest numbers. “They were easy arrests,” he said. “They never gave you any trouble” — at least until that night.

When someone in the audience said Inspector Pine should apologize for the raid, he did.

“There’s been a stereotype that Seymour Pine was a homophobe,” Mr. 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,” Mr. Carter said, “ ‘If what I did helped gay people, then I’m glad.’ ”

This is a man who was on the wrong side of history and seems to have recognized it, after the fact. To me he comes off rather sympathetically in this obituary -- someone who had the prejudices of his time, acted on them and did something wrong, then had the humility to admit he was wrong. If only all of the opponents of gay rights were like that.

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