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April 2, 1970, Vol. XV, No. 14
Koch Raps Police On Gay Arrests
by Jonathan Black
Congressman Edward I. Koch, in a letter to Police Commissioner Howard Leary, has demanded an explanation for the arrest of 167 person at the Snake Pit bar on March 8, as well as Leary’s “comments” on a possible change of policy regarding police harassment of homosexuals. Koch also requested Leary’s comments on recent raids at four other homosexual bars in the West Village.
“Without wanting to prejudge the Snake Pit case, but at the same time hearing and seeing what is happening,” said Koch, “I do believe that you have permitted your department to retrogress in this area.”
(One of Leary’s first pronouncements as Police Commissioner was an end to police entitlement and entrapment.) Koch said that a number of his constituents feared a new crackdown on homosexual bars.
Meanwhile, Paul P. Rao, Jr., a former district attorney and a congressional candidate from Manhattan’s 17th District, accused Koch of “perverting the facts,” and said, “Mr. Koch should be scolded for screaming that the police are harassing homosexuals.”
Rao described an “unwholesome situation” in the 17th District, on 42nd Street and north to the East and West 70s, where “homosexuals loiter in doorways, linger on street corners and follow male pedestrians, causing interference by overt acts of solicitation, with obscene language, lewd gestures, or physical conduct…this many times results in a breach of the peace and endangers other members of society.”
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