Only eight months after the Stonewall uprising, in the early morning of March 8, 1970, police raided the Snake Pit, a gay-run, non-Mafia, after-hours bar in the basement of a Greenwich Village apartment building (according to Bob Damron’s 1970 Address Book, an annual gay travel guide, the Snake Pit was located below the Texas Chili Parlor). The raid was led by Seymour Pine, who had also led the ill-fated raid on the Stonewall.
Fearing similar rioting when a crowd of patrons started forming, the police arrested 167 people, who were taken to the 6th Police Precinct Station House at 135 Charles Street. Argentinian immigrant Diego Vinales apparently panicked over the possibility of deportation, tried to escape from the second story of the jail, and was impaled on the iron fence below. He was cut loose along with part of the fence, taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital and survived, but word spread that he was dead or dying.
The Gay Activists Alliance and Gay Liberation Front organized a quick response – an angry protest by a crowd numbering around 500 people, who marched from Christopher Park to the police station. Mattachine New York fought the arrests of those detained, which led to virtually all of the charges being dismissed.
“Any way you look at it – that boy was PUSHED. We are ALL being pushed.”
A candlelight vigil was also held at St. Vincent’s.
This incident, which received much media coverage, is credited with greatly inspiring more LGBT people to become politically active, including many who had not following Stonewall, such as future film historian Vito Russo. It also demonstrated the strength of the recently formed gay rights movement organizations.