#30DaysofPride: Day 21- The raid at the Snake Pit

People always talk about stonewall only but they do forget a few other raids that went down in history.

In March 1970, the NYPD raided a bar on W 10th st. called the Snake Pit. It was an after hours bar and was run by the Mafia.

On March 8th. 1970 at about 5:00 a.m in the morning the NYPD raided the Snake Pit, an after-hours bar at 211 West 10h. Street in Greenwich Village. Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine (the same Seymour Pine in charge of the raids upon the Stonewall Inn) showed up with a fleet of police wagons, and arrested all 167 customers, staff, and owners and took them to the station house, which violated police policy.

From Back2Stonewall.com Article, March 8, 1970: After Stonewall – The Forgotten NYC Snake Pit Bar Raid. 167 Patrons Arrested, 1 Critically Wounded, 2019

There was one person who almost died. His name is Diego Viñales. He was in the country illegally and when he was taken to the precinct house, he was scared Because he was in the country illegally.

he feared what would happen to him in the police station and tried to escape by jumping out a second story window. He landed on a fence below, its 14-inch spikes piercing his leg and pelvis. He was not only critically wounded, but was also charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. As paramedics attended to Vinales, a cop told a fireman, “You don’t have to hurry, he’s dead, and if he’s not, he’s not going to live long,”

All quotes From Back2Stonewall.com Article, March 8, 1970: After Stonewall – The Forgotten NYC Snake Pit Bar Raid. 167 Patrons Arrested, 1 Critically Wounded, 2019

Immediately after hearing this, the Gay Activist Alliance printed a pamphlet for a protest. “A pamphlet publicizing the protest read, “Any way you look at it, Diego Vinales was pushed. We are all being pushed.”

Nearly 500 people showed up for an angry and loud but peaceful protest protest to the precinct station on Charles Street, followed by a vigil at St. Vincent’s hospital where Vinales lay in critical condition.

All quotes From Back2Stonewall.com Article, March 8, 1970: After Stonewall – The Forgotten NYC Snake Pit Bar Raid. 167 Patrons Arrested, 1 Critically Wounded, 2019

This article was published in the New York Times the next morning.

Rep. Edward Koch, who would later become the Mayor of NYC accused NYPD Commissioner Howard Leary of green-lighting the resumption of raids, harassment, and illegal arrests against the gay community. Both Leary and Seymour Pine was reassigned to the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.

All quotes From Back2Stonewall.com Article, March 8, 1970: After Stonewall – The Forgotten NYC Snake Pit Bar Raid. 167 Patrons Arrested, 1 Critically Wounded, 2019

Vito Russo was around during the entire Gay Rights movement. He was sitting in a tree watching the tree in Sheridan Square during the stonewall riots but the Snake Pit was his first time involving himself in activism. He talked about his story of the Snake Pit being his springboard into activism on the Making Gay History Podcast.

I was on my way home from work and I passed St. Vincent’s.  There was a candlelight vigil and I remember being handed a leaflet.  And the leaflet said, “No matter how you look at it Diego Vinales was pushed.”  And that’s when I put two and two together, when I realized the political impact of a social event.  That in fact he was pushed from that window.  He was pushed by society. That if he didn’t have to be so scared of being deported, he wouldn’t have jumped.  And so for the first time the organized response reached me on a gut level.  And that was the following Thursday when I went to my first Gay Activists Alliance meeting.

From Making Gay History, Season 1, Episode 10, Vito Russo

We rarely hear about the year after the 8 nights of riots at stonewall and the organization that happened afterwards. They never talk about the fact that these raids lasted into the 70s and early 80s. The narrative is that stonewall happened and that was it; but it isn’t all black and white, there’s much more depth to it. Also, Diego Viñales did survive and moved back to Argentina. Thanks for reading and hearing my history lesson. Happy Pride. 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈

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