Stonewall Redux 2009: The Rainbow Lounge, Fort Worth
This year’s SF Pride parade led off with veterans of the Stonewall bar police raid, followed by youth LGBT organizers promoting "Stonewall 2.0" — the new, activist, online organizing that has sprung up nationwide since Prop 8 passed. But Saturday night (early Sunday morning really), on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, patrons of a brand-new gay bar in Fort Worth, Texas, were treated to a real life re-enactment of the police riot of forty years ago that rang all too true.
Witnesses said police arrived at about 1 a.m. at the Rainbow Lounge on South Jennings Street. They said a man who was arrested suffered a fractured skull and is in a Fort Worth hospital. His condition could not be obtained Sunday night.
The Dallas Voice had an update on one victim, who remains hospitalized:
Kristy Morgan, sister of Chad Gibson, just called me to give an update on her brother. Chad is the man who was hospitalized after being thrown to the floor by police during a raid last night on the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth.
Kristy said the initial CAT scan performed earlier today showed little or no damage. However, a second CAT scan performed this afternoon showed that the bleeding in his brain had increased.
“We won’t know anything more until tomorrow when they do more tests,” she said.
Here’s an early eyewitness report, also from the Dallas Voice:
The not awesome thing was the paddy wagon of homophobic police that showed up … looking for trouble. My group and I were sitting on the back patio at a picnic table. Nobody was being wild out there. [The police] came through with flashlights, being loud asking what was going on out here, then asked why everyone was all the sudden being quiet. When one group started up their conversations again, they took one guy away. I left shortly after and as I walked through the front bar there were numerous cops with plastic handcuffs all ready to go. I [left] the bar and they [had] a big van in the parking lot and numerous cars on the street. And just so you know, it wasn’t fire hazard crowded or seedy wild in there. … The worst part is [friends later told me] that [the police] had numerous people face down on the ground outside. I just moved to Fort Worth from Dallas, so this is such a shock to me. I know Dallas would not put up with this. … I am still so shocked it is 2009 and this just happened.
And a later eyewitness report:
Just got off the phone with Todd Camp who was at the Rainbow Lounge last night when the police came in.
From what he said, it appears police were there arresting people who appeared to have had too much to drink. Todd said that although he saw no one resisting the police, the officers were quite rough in the way they handled people, and that he saw several people shoved rather violently to the ground and handcuffed (with the plastic zip-tie handcuffs).
Unlike New York City in 1969, though, at least one elected representative is standing up to the police raid, Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns (via Burnt Orange Report):
I want all citizens of Texas and Fort Worth to know and be assured that the laws and ordinances of our great State and City will be applied fairly, equally and without malice or selective enforcement. I consider this to be part of "The Fort Worth Way" here. As an elected representative of the city of Fort Worth, I am calling for an immediate and thorough investigation of the actions of the City of Fort Worth Police and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission in relation to the incident at the Rainbow Lounge earlier this morning, June 28, 2009.
It is unfortunate that this incident occurred in Fort Worth and even more so to have occurred on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall protests. Unlike 40 years ago, though, the people of this community have elective representation that will make sure our government is accountable and that the rights of all of its citizens are protected. I are working together with our Mayor, Police Chief, the City of Fort Worth Human Relations Commission, and our State Legislative colleagues to get a complete and accurate accounting of what occurred.
Rest assured that neither the people of Fort Worth, nor the city government of Fort Worth, will tolerate discrimination against any of its citizens. And know that the GLBT Community is an integral part of the economic and cultural life of Fort Worth.
Every Fort Worth citizen deserves to have questions around this incident answered and I am working aggressively toward that end.
Burns has been in touch with other city leaders, including the police chief, and reports that:
he had already talked with Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead who had promised an investigation into the matter. Burns also said at that time that Mayor Pro Tem Kathleen Hicks, who represents the district where the Rainbow Lounge is located, and City Manager Dale A. Fisseler were also already aware of the situation.
The police have an incredible story about "sexually suggestive motions" that were made toward their officers by the patrons of the bar, as well as accusations that officers were groped during their inspection.
Rainbow Lounge owner J.R. Schrock said claims that patrons made sexual advances to the officers and that one patron groped an officer were lies.
“The groping of the police officer — really? We’re gay, but we’re not dumb,” Schrock said to the crowd that gathered at the bar Sunday afternoon. “That is a lie, and I am appalled by it.
“They treat us like outcasts. But even outcasts have a time to shine, and this is it,” Schrock said, pledging that he would not be “scared away” or intimidated into closing his bar.
But it’s the twenty-first century. Fort Worth citizens are unafraid to speak out against this kind of police behavior, as seen in the photo:
A crowd of more than 100 protesters chanted "No more" from the steps of the Tarrant County Courthouse on Sunday evening as they demanded an investigation of a police raid that happened hours earlier at a gay nightclub.
One patron was seriously injured during the raid at the Rainbow Lounge, which resulted in the arrests of seven people, protesters said.
Speaker after speaker decried what they called excessive force during the raid, an accusation that police dispute.
"I was scared," said Todd Camp, a former Star-Telegram writer who helped organize the protest. "I have never seen anything like this in my life."
The rally lasted about 20 minutes, and then some protesters marched down Main Street, holding signs and waving flags. A second protest is planned for 7 p.m. Sunday at the Fort Worth Convention Center.
When people say that gays want "special rights," remind them that we only want to be left alone in peace like everyone else — not dragged out of bars, beaten up, handcuffed, thrown to the ground, and arrested.
On the high holy day that commemorates the police riot that started our LGBT movement, no less.
UPDATE: Police department statement here
photo credit, Tammye Nash, Dallas Voice