The Stonewall Cop Is in Hell

Cops stand outside the Stonewall Inn in New York.
Photo: Bebeto Matthews/AP

Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine, the New York Police Department officer who led the police raid of the Stonewall Inn on the night of the historic Stonewall riots, is dead. He’s been dead for a nearly a decade. But that hasn’t stopped the New York Times from exhuming his dumbass savior narrative for the 50th anniversary of the riots.

In a piece published on Thursday, the Times shared a historical account of the police raids of gay bars in New York City and the June 1969 riot at the Stonewall Inn, cribbing its story from books that detail the night and the nationwide civil rights movement for the LGBTQ community that followed.

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Pine’s recollection of the night, recorded decades later, is weaved throughout the piece, including a slur for transgender people and him describing how frightening he found the whole situation to be (mind you, the cops spent weeks raiding gay bars before this). And then there’s this nugget from the Times, emphasis mine:

Inspector Pine later retired, eventually moving into a nursing facility. He left the facility one night in 2004 to attend an event marking the publication of Mr. Carter’s book about Stonewall, and he apologized to those in attendance, 15 years before the Police Department gave an official apology. He acknowledged that his raid unintentionally helped kick off a global movement, and before Inspector Pine’s death in 2009, Mr. Carter said, he told the writer: “If what I did helped gay people, then I’m glad.”

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Of course the Times jumped on such an alarming quote, sharing it to Twitter, where it reliably did numbers through accounts getting understandably heated at Pine’s sentiment. The Times’ account ultimately deleted the tweet, though its mere brief existence was enough for audiences to learn that the Times hasn’t diversified its newsroom nearly enough.

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In the decades following his harassment of the queer community, Pine did a great job of reinterpreting his role in the Stonewall raid protests. Sure, as the Times gladly pointed out, he “apologized,” but was Pine actually ever sorry? Did he ever realize or own up to leading marginalization of and violence against gay and trans New Yorkers?

At that same 2004 event, Pine said his cops just “had no idea about what gay people were about,” and later said before his death said that he didn’t think “not liking gay people had anything to do with” the raids. To him, they were all just doing a job.

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Within this context (or hell, even without it), the whole I “helped gay people” sentiment is one hell of a quote to include without so much as allowing another source—say I don’t know, someone who was strip-searched at the Stonewall Inn, someone who narrowly evaded arrest at the bar, or a historian who has catalogued other queer community experiences with the NYPD—to respond with, at the very least, “that’s not entirely correct.” Because it’s not.

Pine doesn’t get to be a hindsight hero; he’s been dead for nine years and is still being painted as an incidental revolutionary leader instead of the cop who dehumanized trans people. Seymour Pine and the police involved in the raids who assaulted patrons—and the police who continue to terrorize the lives of the people within the queer community—can go to hell, if they’re not there already.

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About the author

Samantha Grasso

Splinter Staff Writer, Texan