A crowd gathered outside of New York Mayor Micheal R. Bloomberg’s East 79th Street residence on Saturday to draw attention to a worrying trend of prostitution arrests made against gay and bisexual men frequenting Manhattan’s adult Video stores dating back all the way to 2004, arrests that victims like 52-year-old Robert Pinter say are completely unlawful and are evidence that the NYPD are still targeting homosexuals.
What Happened in the Robert Pinter Case?
Robert Pinter, a massage therapist and one of many older gay men arrested in similar circumstances, was in an adult video store when he was approached by a younger, handsome Asian man who propositioned him. Pinter accepted the consensual encounter and the two started to make their way outside to have sex in a car when the young man attempted to give money to Pinter.
Understandably, Pinter became uncomfortable and after repeated attempts of the young man to hand over $50, Pinter decided to call off the liaison, only to be thrown against a metal link fence and arrested.
The NYPD’s account of the night puts a different spin on things, denying any rough or wrongful treatment and says that they had been reacting to complaints made by local citizens.
Pinter pled guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct, paid a small fine and attended classes that were prescribed as part of his penalty. Whilst there, however, he met many other gay mean, all with similar stories to his own and quickly became suspicious.
NYPD Targeting Adult Shops
The details of this case should be put into context of city-wide developments. The video store in question, Blue Door Video on First Avenue in the East Village has been under heavy scrutiny for some time, and sits in the firing line with six other stores that have already been sued by the city, subsequently closed and the property then sold.
30 men were arrested in six adult shops during 2008 with 50 arrests since 2004. In contrast, the NYPD point out that only 3 out of the 100 cases investigated for prostitution charges were gay themed video stores.
These statistics seem to point to a problem blown out of proportion, but the Gay City News, a New York LGBT publication, has uncovered other cases of such arrests and during its search found that the amount of older gay men targeted in the operation was disproportionate compared to other areas of the city such as Manhattan South. Profiling the men, the case also throws up irregularities. Some of the men who were arrested were tourists, and all fell outside what would be considered a typical prostitute’s characteristics.
“If the City has some legal basis for closing down these stores if they think they’re a blight or a nuisance or there’s some illegal activity going on, surely they could find a legal means for pursuing these nuisance abatement suits rather than trampling on the civil rights of gay men in New York City,” Pinter remarked.
When asked why he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of disorderly conduct, Pinter said that whilst being held in custody, he felt pressured to plead guilty in order to hopefully save his career as a massage therapist from ruin.
Reactions To The Arrests
Many gay politicians and gay groups have reacted angrily to the case, with Councilwoman Rosie Mendez calling for a full investigation and many LGBT groups throwing around words like “harassment” and “a return to a pre-Stonewall era”.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg, pictured, has yet to formally address the issue, but he has, in the past, been an advocate of LGBT rights and has taken part in past NYC Pride Parades. The Mayor’s statement to the accusations leveled at the NYPD will be heavily scrutinized by LGBT groups as this no-doubt decisive story unfolds.