Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stonewall 2009: Police raid gay bars in Texas and Atlanta

40 years ago this summer police raided the Stonewall Inn in New York, prompting a gay riot and a new phase in the gay liberation movement. On the 40th anniversary itself, June 28th 2009, police and agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission staged their own re-enactment of the Stonewall raid, when they raided the Rainbow Lounge, a gay dance club in Fort Worth.

According to the New York Times (5 July 2009):

'Several witnesses said six police officers and two liquor control agents used excessive force as they arrested people during the raid. Chad Gibson, a 26-year-old computer technician from Euless, about 15 miles northeast of Fort Worth, suffered a concussion, a hairline fracture to his skull and internal bleeding after officers slammed his head into a wall and then into the floor, witnesses and family members said... Another patron suffered broken ribs, and a third had a broken thumb, said Todd Camp, the founder and artistic director of Q. Cinema, a gay film festival in Fort Worth. Mr. Camp, a former journalist, said he was celebrating his 43rd birthday in the bar when the police arrived at 1:05 a.m.

The officers entered the bar without announcing themselves, witnesses said. Earlier in the night, they had visited two other bars looking for violations of alcohol compliance laws. Those bars do not cater to gay patrons, and the officers had made nine arrests at those establishments on public intoxication charges, officials said. “They were hyped up,” Mr. Camp said of the officers in the Rainbow Lounge raid. “They came in charged and ready for a fight. They were just telling people they were drunk or asking them if they were drunk, and, if they mouthed off, arresting them.” More than 20 people were taken out of the bar for questioning, handcuffed with plastic ties and, in some cases, were forced to lie face down in the parking lot, witnesses said. Five were eventually booked on charges of public drunkenness, the police said... The raid prompted swift action. Hours later, more than 100 people were protesting on the steps of the Tarrant County Courthouse'.

In a similar incident last month, police in Atlanta, Georgia, raided a gay bar called The Eagle. Mike Alvear has a detailed account of the raid, which took place on September 10 2009. Here's a few extracts:

'“Shut the fuck up!” a cop yelled at one of the bar patrons who asked why they were being forced to lay face down on the grubby floors. An acquaintance saw the police shove an 80 year-old man to the ground because he was moving too slowly... “I hate queers,” a cop said. Other officers–some plain-clothed, some uniformed– walked around the bar demanding to know who was in the military, threatening to report them to their commanding officers. “This is a lot more fun than raiding niggers with crack!” Du-Wayne Ray heard one white officer say this to another; other cops were high-fiving each other. For almost two hours, Mark Danack, Nick Koperski, and sixty other gay men were forced to lay face down on the bar’s filthy floors. The drivers license screening revealed nothing. Sixty two men and the cops didn’t find a suspended license, a criminal prior, nothing. Not even a parking ticket. The search and seizure uncovered nothing. No drugs. Not even a joint. Finally, the men were ordered to leave but without their cell phones, wallets and other personal belongings'. The only arrests were eight staff members, who were detained for the crime of 'Dancing in their underwear without a permit'.

Unlike Stonewall there were no riots this time, but as in Fort Worth there have been a number of protests in Atlanta.


expletive undeleted said...

Fucking outrageous. US law enforcement never fails to disappoint.

Thanks for making me angry so early in the morning! Grrr.

Did have a little smile at the idea of being arrested for 'dancing in underwear without a permit' though ..

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