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Seymour Pine, Officer Who Led Raid on Stonewall Inn, Dies at 91

Seymour Pine, the NYPD officer who led the raid on the Stonewall Inn, has died at 91 at an assisted living center in New Jersey, the NYT reports:

Pine "Inspector Pine, who later apologized for his role in the raid, was commander of the New York Police Department’s vice squad for Lower Manhattan when he led eight officers into the Stonewall Inn, an illegal club frequented by cross-dressers, just after midnight on June 28, 1969....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."

Said David Carter, author of Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution: "There’s been a stereotype that Seymour Pine was a homophobe. 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."

Pine was interviewed for this year's film Stonewall Uprising. Watch the trailer (I believe that's Pine in the NYPD cap), AFTER THE JUMP...

After screening the excellent film earlier this year, I'd have to agree with Carter's quote above.

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  1. Needless to say Pine doesn't mention the fact that the raids were staged when payments from the Mob didn't arrive on time -- or were considered insufficient.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Sep 8, 2010 9:56:43 AM

  2. Personally, I suspect he _was_ homophobic at the time of the raid (regardless of "just following orders"), but I do believe people can sincerely change, and I have to think that the apology was sincere.

    I know _something_ would have happened eventually, but if he hadn't been there, we might have waited a bit longer for the spark that ignited the movement.

    Posted by: tjc | Sep 8, 2010 10:13:48 AM

  3. Today is his day for judgment; I for one, forgive him for his crime against our community because he's asked for it. His long life was as much a gift as it was a curse. May he rest in peace.

    Posted by: Dave | Sep 8, 2010 10:14:00 AM

  4. If any of you read or saw interviews of him, you would know his opinions on the matter had been altered over time, and sharing his perspective in a fairly frank and untarnished way has been valuable to historians like David Carter.

    Posted by: Gregoire | Sep 8, 2010 10:20:52 AM

  5. I don't think we should be in the business of passing judgment about his behavior in a historical vaccuum. It doesn't do us any good to argue about whether he "changed his mind" or was a "product of the times" or any of that crap - he's passed on and God rest him. We have a whole lot more things we need to be worried about right now, such as training police in 2010 not to act like they did in 1969. If you're down with that, I'm with you - but I don't think it's making much sense to stand around and say "well he committed a crime against our community... but he turned out okay". That's a load of crap and is sort of weird. I'm only worried that those police who are just "doing their job" these days aren't doing the same thing. Godspeed, Officer Pine.

    Posted by: Greg | Sep 8, 2010 10:45:19 AM

  6. "Today is his day for judgment"

    Only if you believe in 'god'. I don't believe in those religious, fictional characters.

    Pine apologised before his death, which is adequate in my book.

    I have no doubt that in the 1960's he was homophobic. But that's no surprise. The entire country was homophobic back then.

    Posted by: Martin Murray | Sep 8, 2010 10:46:46 AM

  7. People change, forgive and move on. RIP Officer.

    Posted by: Joel | Sep 8, 2010 11:38:30 AM

  8. SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! His name was Seymour Pine?! The 12-year old in me won't stop laughing about that all day.

    Posted by: Christopher | Sep 8, 2010 11:54:29 AM

  9. Inspector Pine sounds like he was basically a decent guy at the end of the day and deserves credit for agreeing to the documentary stuff and so on, but....

    ....Like another poster said, I think he was guilty of overly sanitizing the situation at the period in time regarding police corruption and the mob. I suspect the real number one reason for that raid was to send a message to the crime family who operated Stonewall...$$$$$$$

    Posted by: ratbastard | Sep 8, 2010 1:16:11 PM

  10. I saw the doc, and got a strong sense he'd evolved. It's impossible for any of us today to imagine what an ordinary person thought of "the gays" then. There just weren't people of any orientation will to speak on our behalf.

    It wouldn't have even crossed his mind to contemplate whether he was doing something wrong at the time.

    Posted by: Clarknt67 | Sep 8, 2010 1:32:20 PM

  11. Seymour Pine is a funny name for a guy who is now in a coffin.

    Posted by: DustyO | Sep 8, 2010 2:44:31 PM

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