March 8 in LGBTQ History

1970: In the wee morning hours, New York City police raid a gay bar called the Snake Pit, arresting 167 patrons. At the police station, one of the arrestees, an Argentine national named Diego Vinales so feared the possibility of deportation that he leapt from a second-story window of the police station, impaling himself on the spikes of an iron fence.  He survived, though firemen were forced to cut out a section of the fence with Vinales still skewered on it, in order to move him to the hospital.  One journalist remarked, “It is no crime to be *in* a place that is serving liquor illegally, the only crime is to run such a place.  There were no grounds for hauling the customers away.”  Though charges against other patrons are dropped, Vinales was rebooked for “resisting arrest” and officers are stationed outside his hospital room to prevent another escape.

1979: The New York Times runs a front-page photograph of six men being executed by firing squad in Iran for allegedly having committed crimes of “homosexual rape.”  Since the Ayatollah Khomeini’s rise to power just four weeks earlier, there have been growing reports of gay men — as well as Jews, Baha’is, “blasphemers,” “heretics,” former members of the Iranian aristrocracy , and others — being blackmailed, imprisoned, tortured, dismembered, hanged and/or shot. By the time Khomeini gets around to celebrating his first anniversary of his Islamic revolution, the body count is in the thousands.

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