Today is the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a 1969 riot in which patrons of the Stonewall Bar fought back against police brutality and harassment against gay people by the NYPD. On this day 40 years ago, a raid of the Stonewall Bar by police turned into a riot and is widely considered to have been a major catalyst for the modern US gay rights movement. Sarah.of.a.lesser.god has a good post about remembering Stonewall on The Pursuit of Harpyness blog.
Unfortunately, I have bad news to bear on the anniversary of Stonewall that reminds us that hate, violence, and homophobia are alive and well today and the fight against injustice must continue on with fervor and bravery.
Apparently, a Fort Worth bar, Rainbow Lounge, was raided by police early this morning. Seven people were reportedly arrested there for “Public Intoxication.”
Witnesses report that police arrived at the club about 1 a.m. this morning and arrested seven people. One of those arrested reportedly suffered a fractured skull and is at a local hospital.
Fort Worth police released a statement saying that the Rainbow Lounge was among several bars investigated, and that nine additional people were arrested at other bars.
At Rainbow Lounge, a police statement claimed, an “extremely intoxicated patron made sexually explicit movements toward the police supervisor,” and was arrested. The statement claimed that a second man made explicit gestures and a third grabbed an agent’s groin, thus spurring their arrests. Police reported that another intoxicated person was placed on the ground by officers to control him while resisting arrest.
However, the general manager of the Rainbow Lounge and several witnesses are claiming that officers used excessive force to make arrests.
“He was just walking to the bathroom when an officer grabbed him and shoved him against a wall and pulled his head back,” said Chris Hightower of Fort Worth. “He (the injured man) was then thrown to the ground and three other officers were on him.”
Several witnesses are claiming that the officers were never assaulted. One patron described the routine inspections usually performed by police. “Usually, they’re very orderly and respectful – they work with the bar staff and check IDs, it’s quick and painful and then it’s over and then they’re out. This was not that. This was harassment, plain and simple.”
For an up to date feed on the details of the raid and scheduled protests, check out the Dallas Voice.
Given the anniversary of Stonewall and my general distrust for the police department, I am extremely skeptical about the police department’s claims. A lot of the information as of now, however, consists of witness accounts. Here is one account from the Dallas Voice blog page.
I was one of the dance entertainers last night at Rainbow Lounge. I was dancing on a box in the VIP lounge and was looking right at the first guy that was arrested. The male patron was standing at the bar doing nothing but having a having a drink and a fun time (like people do in bars) when an officer entered that section of the club and made a beeline straight towards him. The officer forcefully spun the man around, shoved him against the bar and placed plastic restraints on his wrists. The officer then marched the man out the club. The guy was stunned and obviously really scared.
I then noticed another officer in the VIP section and several other officers filtering into the club. I made the decision at that point to go ahead and get dressed in case they were going to start arresting everyone in the entire place.
When I got inside the dressing room there were other dancers already in there getting dressed. They were panicing and saying that this is not something they have ever had to deal dancing in Dallas.
I got dressed and walked out the door and saw that several more officers had made their way into the club. I went into sort of a surreal haze at that moment. I was so disturbed and saddened because it occured to me in that moment that being after midnight, it was actually the exact same day as the Stonewall Riots. I just couldn’t believe what was happening.
I was still standing near the entrance to the VIP lounge with a friend when an officer approached a man standing there. The man had water in his hand. The officer asked him how much he had had to drink and the man said that he didn’t have to answer that. The officer then said that he was going to arrest him for public intoxication. The man said,”You can’t do that I am just standing here right now drinking water.” At the time the officer shoved the man over towards the wall near the dressing room and then back to the rear wall near the men’s restroom, then down onto the floor. Several other officers, made their way back there to hold that ONE MAN down on the ground as they placed restraints on him. At the time I noticed that all of them did not have FWPD uniforms on. Some of them were actually State Police.
I came out of my horrified daze at that moment and told my friend that we needed to get out of there quickly. I just felt like everything was about to go crazy. Outside the bar, there were officers standing all over the place. I did a quick scan and counted seven squad cars. I heard one officer telling a young woman who was complaining to him about being harrassed by them that they were only there to protect the citizens of Fort Worth and to keep drunk people from being on the roads.
This morning when I woke up, in the moments before I became lucid, I questioned whether or not I had simply had a strange and awful nightmare. I had no alcohol last night, only water. So it wasn’t some drunken nightmare. It really happened. I then actually got emotional and cried, which is rare for me. It still hurts a little knowing that there are lots of people out there who hate me just for being gay.
It’s 2009. The world is a rough place. Many of us are struggling to remain financiially afloat now. Going out to a bar and having fun with friends is one way to take our minds off of reality for a little while. Fort Worth is large, modern city. This should not happen period but certainly not somewhere like this. Rainbow Lounge was clearly targeted because it is a new gay bar. There are drunk people in bars all over the place. The officers didn’t know if the people they arrrested were driving their own cars, riding with sober friends, or calling cabs. Wasn’t there something more important they could have been doing last night? It’s just really sad.
Tonight, there was a protest in which over 100 protestors demanded an investigation into the raid. A second protest is scheduled for next Sunday, 7 PM at the Fort Worth Convention Center.
If you, like me, are also outraged at the reports of police harassment, homophobia, and violence in Fort Worth, please continue checking in to find out how to show your support for the protestors.