April 26, 2011

NetPix: The Story Behind The Stonewall Riots

I was watching PBS last night and saw an intense documentary about the Stonewall Riots, which marked the beginning of the gay rights movement in the summer of 1969.  STONEWALL UPRISING was the most detailed recounting of events I had ever seen including interviews with patrons who were inside the bar, Village VOICE reporters (whose offices were across the street) and even the police officer who headed up the raid that started a revolution.

Seymour Pine, of the 6th Precinct, was the officer in charge of the six man raid on the bar which quickly spiraled out of control.  The police were so overwhelmed by the mob that crowded Christopher Street that they hid inside the bar, waiting for backup.  During those tense minutes, Pine took each officer aside and told them in no uncertain terms not to fire their guns unless he gave them the order to by name.  It was a chilling aspect of the Stonewall story I'd never heard.  Pine knew that the riot could have turned into a massacre in the flash of one officers' gun and prevented that from happening.

In the end, though, scores were injured when riot police arrived and the real fighting began. The melee, which started around 1am and went until 4am, left the bar in a shambles and the streets of the village littered with debris. But it was the beginning of the modern gay rights movement.  And this film tells the remarkable story of the night with incredible detail and emotion.  Well worth ordering on NetFlix or seeing the next time it airs.

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