NYPD Celebrates Gay Pride by Raiding a Gay Bar Minutes After Gay Marriage Victory

Photo by Shanna Ravindra for New York Magazine

A same-sex marriage bill passed the state senate in New York Friday night and everyone everywhere with a heart in their body said they could hear it sing.

It wasn’t all glitter and trombones, however. On 28th street and 11th avenue in Manhattan, gay patrons of leather bar, The Eagle, were treated to a trip into the past only minutes after Cuomo signed the same-sex marriage bill into law when an unannounced inspection, allegedly planned weeks in advance, broke the jubilant mood with police officers and flashlights in everyone’s faces.

Police officials told the press that the inspection was part of a routine operation carried out at “a couple thousand clubs” every year in every precinct except Central Park by MARCH, a “multiagency response to community hot spots.” “Community hot spots” are defined as “subjects of chronic complaints from community members that are mostly reported through the city’s 311 and 911 communications systems over concerns like excessive noise or fighting.”

According to patrons, about 100 people were in the bar when representatives from the NYPD, the State Liquor Authority and three other city agencies arrived.

Chief Police Department spokesman Paul J. Browne, in addition to disputing many patrons’ versions of events, has pointed out that, lacking a “crystal ball,” they were unable to predict the ruling in Albany would coincide with the inspection.

But still! IT’S GAY PRIDE WEEKEND FOR CHRISSAKE! The owner of the bar, Robert Berk, recognizes the police were “just doing their job” but would’ve liked them to maybe do their job during the day, or a different week, and described the police as “aggressive, but nice.”

Berk said the inspection lasted two hours, the police say it took 45 minutes. Patrons say they were told to empty their pockets and had lights flashed in their faces, which Browne also denies. Browne goes on to say that “the notion that anyone was searched or the lights were turned off is utter fabrication.”

Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer is not impressed:

“I am going to ask the police commissioner to conduct a formal investigation concerning the circumstances around this raid… [while it was] true that there are these multiagency inspections, I think this one was ill-conceived and ill-timed given the circumstances surrounding the marriage equality celebration, on Pride week.”

Six violations were issued regarding issues like “unlicensed security” (from the NYPD) “unnecessary noise” (from the Department of Environmental Protection), “no public assembly permit” (from the Buildings Department) and, from the liquor authority, two for “extension of premise” and “failure to conform to application.”

Also from The New York Times, patron Christopher J. Borras, 46:

“I find interesting the timing. I would just like to know from the police: `Why did they do that?’ To me, it is a blatant sign of intimidation and harassment, I mean, 42 years after the Stonewall riots and we still have to live in fear of the police disturbing our quiet enjoyment of life? I just don’t understand. We are very peaceful.”

Allen Roskoff, 61, veteran gay-rights activist:

“In typical New York City Police Department fashion, the N.Y.P.D. demonstrated its disrespect for the gay community by raiding the Eagle mere moments after the passage of most important piece of gay rights legislation in history.”

The Eagle NYC is one of several Eagle bars around the country. In 209, police raided The Eagle Bar in Atlanta, where patrons reported they were “systematically searched, had their cell phones confiscated, and insulted by homophobic police officers.” There were huge protests and the resulting lawsuit over plaintiffs being “unlawfully searched and detained” succeeded and the city had to pay $1,025,000 in damages.

It seems unfathomable that a group of city agency officials — especially those in charge of regulating bars and clubs — would be unaware of Gay Pride Week. Would they “inspect” a sports bar on Superbowl Sunday? Not one person in any of these agencies at any point between when the inspection was planned thought, “Hey, maybe another time?”

With victories like Friday night’s coming so rarely and taking so many years to accomplish, it’s nothing short of tragic that for at least 100 gay revelers on Friday night, progress seemed a bit further out of reach, if only symbolically.


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Riese is the 35-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City and mellowed out in California before returning to Michigan for reasons that are unclear to her now — she is currently plotting her return to the West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

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12 Comments

  1. 0

    “…lacking a “crystal ball,” they were unable to predict the ruling in Albany would coincide with the inspection.”

    Bullshit! They didn’t need a crystal ball, just a calendar and basic knowledge of current events. No psychic skills needed to know that:

    A. It’s Gay Pride weekend which has been the last weekend in June for… the last TWENTY YEARS at least! The thing the NYPD works at EVERY FREAKIN’ YEAR!

    B. Turn on a tv. See the that the vote is happening that night. Realize using basic logic skills that NO MATTER the outcome of the vote, that night would not be a good night to do this.

    Are they really claiming they need several days and/or weeks notice to call off an inspection? That should take minutes. Reverse emergency preparedness.

    • 0

      I think gay bar raids make the news because the way the inspection was run was inflammatory/offensive/just nasty. Said another way, we feel compelled to call them “raids,” not “inspections.” I don’t imagine straight bars are raided very often, but they are inspected.

  2. 0

    …Seriously, because this vote has been dragged out for roughly a million years, they seriously didn’t have time to maybe consider the negative implications of raiding a bar on pride weekend which coinciding with some really high profile gay marriage legislation?

  3. 0

    What I don’t understand about people spreading hate is the commitment to wasting their own time. You could’ve been like scratching yourself and watching The Real L Word, NYPD! You’ve made a huge mistake… there’s always money in the banana stand. I’m going to go read Robin’s dream giveaway again so I can believe in something good for a moment.

    • 0

      Thank you for dropping Arrested Development here so I leave this article on a laugh, not a downer. Also, excellent point re worthy alternative pursuits for the NYPD – I’ve found both those leisure activities highly beneficial for body & soul.

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