Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
This article can be found at:
Latest Posts

The Daily Agenda for Friday, July 18

Jim Burroway

July 18th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Calabria, Italy; Pride Charlotte, NC (Black Pride); Colorado Springs, CO; Demming, NM; Frankfurt, Germany; Glasgow, Scotland; Kitsap, WA; Leipzig, Germany; Munich, Germany; Reading, PA; Rochester, MN; Rochester, NY; San Diego, CA.

Other Events This Weekend: Sand Blast Weekend, Asbury Park, NJ; Outfest Film Festival, Los Angeles, CA; Miami Beach Bruthaz, Miami Beach, FL; Pink Dot Rally, Okinawa, Japan (Monday only); Bear Week, Provincetown, MA; Roze Maandag (Pink Monday), Tilburg, Netherlands (Monday only); Tokyo International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Tokyo, Japan; AIDS Walk, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From This Week In Texas, July 19, 1975.

From This Week In Texas, July 19, 1975.

Henry P. Laughlin, 1964.

Henry P. Laughlin, 1964.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Psychiatrist Denounces Anti-Gay Witchhunt: 1950. A Senate subcommittee under Joseph McCarthy investigating the federal employment of gay Americans was warned that their investigation would have negative consequences on government functioning. “The immediate effect of the probe is to threaten the emotional security and mental health of many government employees, warned Dr. Henry P. Laughlin of the Washington Psychiatric Society. “This is indeed unfortunate, tending to lower the efficiency and work production of those who have some actual or imagined basis for concern, and especially for those people whose homosexual experiences have been isolated or of a token nature or perhaps never occurred.”

Laughlin however emphasized that he was only speaking for himself and not the Society, before continuing on a line rarely heard in 1950: “Sexual orientation doesn’t enter into a person’s ability or capacity to do work. I am sure that many persons in government, as well as in industry and other areas of endeavor, have made significant contributions, although their orientation happens to be homosexual.” Laughlin’s testimony would fall on deaf years. Tens of thousands of people would be hounded out of their jobs over the next several decades, whether they were gay, suspected of being gay, or simply accused of being gay for whatever reasons.

NYC Police Commissioner Howard Leary

NYC Police Commissioner Howard Leary

New York Police Raid After Hours Club, Mafia Owners Fail To Stoke Another “Stonewall”: 1970. The Stonewall rebellion a year earlier had changed a lot. The gay community was more organized and more assertive than ever before. But there were a few things that hadn’t changed: police continued to raid gay bars and clubs, nearly all of which continued to be mob-owned. The gay community often found itself fighting on two fronts: 1) against direct harassment by the police (especially if one were to stray from well-established gender norms), and 2) from getting caught in the crossfire of a larger economic tug-of-war between organized crime and corrupt police officials. Most people today are very well versed on the first battle, but we often forget how important that second one was at the time. In New York City in the late sixties and early seventies, that second battle often threatened to eclipse the first. A good illustration of that can be found in a police raid that took place at The Barn, an after-hours club in the early morning hours of July 18, 1970. LGBT activist Randy Wicker (see Feb 3) described what happened in his column in GAY, the nation’s first weekly gay newspaper:

Barn baloney bared: New York Police raided the Barn Sunday, July 18th, issued summonses to nine employees and sent dozens of patrons scrambling out of the back rooms and into the streets. Management mafiosi reportedly took to the streets also shouting “gay power” and urging the patrons to return apparently hoping to provoke a confrontation a-la-Stonewall. The Police left shortly thereafter and most of the patrons re-entered the club.

“These raids shouldn’t be conducted at all,” Marty Robinson, GAA (Gay Activists Alliance) Political Affairs Committee chairman, declared. “We don’t like these management people running around the street shouting ‘gay power’ to further their own ends. Gay people should not simply be pawns in a power struggle between the police and underworld elements. A conference with Police Commissioner Leary has been arranged to discuss this matter more fully.

The running battle between the mob and NYPD masked the fact that the current situation was actually mutually beneficial to both parties. Because of the state’s reluctance (and often, outright refusal) to issue liquor licenses to gay businessmen who wanted to open gay bars, the mob stepped in to fill the void by opening unlicensed bars. They made tons of money selling fake, watered-down drinks at exorbitant prices, and they shared the wealth with police officers and officials who were paid to look the other way. Sometimes a payment was missed, sometimes it was shorted, or sometimes a dispute broke out over how much the mob should pay, and that’s when the police would suddenly turn up to conduct a raid. And while they were at it, police could boost their arrest numbers by hauling some of the bar patrons to the station house. It appears that noo such arrests were made in the Barn raid, a restraint which may have helped to lower the temperature among the Barn’s patrons and foil the attempts by the club’s employees to exploit the situation. But police behavior toward the club’s patrons were, typically, hostile, both before and during the raid.

L-R: Lige Clarke and Jack Nichols (publishers of GAY), Jim Owles, and Marty Robinson.

L-R: Lige Clarke and Jack Nichols (publishers of GAY), Jim Owles, and Marty Robinson.

Robinson and Jim Owles, GAA president, led a delegation to meet with Police Commissioner Howard R. Leary to discuss the problem of the mafia-owned bars as well as how the police treated gay people. As GAY reported on August 17:

Jim Owles, president of GAA, told Commissioner Leary that the homosexual community is achieving a new awareness of itself and its problems, partly as a result of its witnessing other minority group struggles and partly as a result of problem. with the police that the gay community continually faces. He charged that raids on after-hours gay bars were made at hours on weekend nights, with police by their mere presence intimidating scores of patrons. “They hang around, they check I.D .’s at random. they indulge in verbal abuse, they station one man at the door and a patrol car out front for several minutes.”

Recently at the Barn (an after-hours bar), Owles contended, a police raid created a very heated atmosphere and near violence. “We’re here to ask you what can be done. Your actions make it difficult for a civil rights organization such as ours that is trying to reform the establishment. When we work against a background of such police tactics, they tend to undermine our efforts and to drive the gay community into the hands of extremists ” Owles charged. Nevertheless, he explained, “we are not asking the police to close down after-hours bars.” He said GAA’s concern was that homosexual patrons should be left alone when police take action against such establishments.”

…Robinson pointed out that the syndicate owns legitimate bars, too. He said “We’re here about a social condition — syndicate control of gay bars and payoffs to police. The bars are run shabbily and are a bad influence on the young kids just coming out who patronize these places and who already don’t know what to make of themselves because of the way society receives them. Such gay bars shouldn’t be tolerated in these years. We can’t live with it. We want to see legitimate bars where there’s no guy at the door with a cigar in his face saying to kids, ‘Welcome to your life- this is it, your subculture, your subterranean existence.’ Commissioner, our desire now is that anyone who’s honest can get into business and stay in without a shakedown, and can get police protection. But we must have police protection for this to be possible.”

…Reinforcing Robinson’s earlier remarks, Owles told the police that successful bars not opened by the syndicate were quickly taken over by it. “In an era when homosexuals are seeking their civil rights, it’s a blatant insult to have to go to a bar taken over by the syndicate. This situation will blow up sooner or later,” he warned. “Hence GAA is pressing for an investigation of alleged collusion between the State Liquor Authority and organized crime. Meanwhile, whatever struggles there are between the police and the syndicate, we simply ask that homosexual patrons not be used as pawns in between.”

Leary countered that if the GAA or anyone in the gay community had specific evidence of official corruption, they should bring it to the police. Owles countered that this was a problem for the NYPD to solve, not his. “As far as a police investigation is concerned,” he said, “it would be most difficult for most homosexuals to appear in court to help you. Actual lives would be in danger.”

The previous April, The New York Times published a front-page article about police corruption using information supplied by two officers, Detective David Durk and Officer Frank Serpico. That article forced New York Mayor John Lindsay to appoint a five-member panel to investigate charges of police corruption. A year later, the commission issued a report saying that police corruption was endemic, and that the mayor and Leary, who by then was a former police commissioner, had failed to act.

[Sources: Kay Tobin. “Police Commissioner Howard Leary Meets with G.A.A.” GAY (August 17, 1970): 3, 12.

Randy Wicker. “The Wicker Basket” GAY (August 17, 1970): 8.]

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Comments

POST COMMENT | COMMENT RSS 2.0

Donny D.
July 19th, 2014 | LINK

It’s funny, Jim, that the history I read of the end of the ’60s and early ’70s gay liberation movement had the Gay Liberation Front as prominent and as active as the Gay Activist Alliance, but in your day to day telling, the GLF was hardly ever there.

When Jim Owles, then president of the GAA, worried in this historical item that, “[w]hen we work against a background of such police tactics, they tend to undermine our efforts and to drive the gay community into the hands of extremists”, who might he have been referring to? Gay radicals and militants are prominent in that history even when they’ve been written out of it.

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required)
(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.