July 01, 2009

What really happened at the Rainbow Lounge?

Early Sunday morning, 40 years after the Stonewall Riots, TABC and Fort Worth PD raided a gay bar in Fort Worth. A few things were strange... the bar had only been open for a week and it was clear from the get-go, this raid wasn't about service at the bar. It was about harassing the patrons of the bar. Asterisk has a detailed account of what happened that night pieced together from multiple sources.

Normally when there's a raid on an establishment that's been overserving, TABC is looking to arrest servers and bar tenders who are violating regs. That didn't happen. Instead, they arrested patrons on the flimsiest of charges, Public Intox. To see how vague the law is, take a look here. This gives law enforcement an enormous amount of latitude, something the courts usually take into account on contested PI charges. PI is used as frequently against the violent as it is against the non-violent. To get arrested for PI, you need only be walking down the street after a drink or two. That's how easy it is.

According to the account, the raid was based on the report of a 'disgruntled employee'. Now, the bar had been open for a week so that was a weak excuse. Further, taking the word of a 'disgruntled employee' makes about as much sense as me asking one of my exes to write a profile for me on a dating site.

Fortunately, it looks like political leaders in Fort Worth are asking questions and trying to investigate the true nature of this raid. These officers have just cost the city, in terms of bad PR and lawsuits, probably a couple of million dollars. Whatever your feelings on gays and lesbians, ANY taxpayer should be pissed as hell about these officers going commando on the taxpayer's dime.

Additionally, Fort Worth's PD Chief Jeff Halstead has promised to look into the 'inspection' and determine what happened. From reports he's received, it appears that the TABC agents were the bad actors in the all this.

"Why didn’t they do something?" asked Elizabeth Pax, ambassador for Queer Liberaction, a Dallas-based advocacy group. "Why didn’t your officers speak up?"

One Fort Worth officer made an initial call for assistance early on, Halstead said. Investigators think that call took place while Gibson was being injured, Halstead said.

Once patrons confronted the officers, Halstead said, the bar check took on a very different tone.

Halstead asked again for people who were at the Rainbow Lounge to come forward and tell police what they saw.

He said that the department had received about 500 calls but that only two were from people who had been at the bar. Investigators need to hear from witnesses, not just from people who want to complain, he said.

Halstead promised that he will work to employ a liaison between police and the gay community.

"We’ve got to work together," Halstead said. "Be patient, and you will see that this is just not lip service. I will meet with you wherever you want to meet. I will go to your restaurants, your house, we can eat barbecue, whatever you want to do. But we’ve got to talk.

"We will heal beyond this."

Posted by mcblogger at July 1, 2009 12:37 PM

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Ok, it is just too adorable that he offered to have barbq. I hope every gay person in Fort Worth takes him up on that one. :)

Posted by: DarthVelma [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 2, 2009 07:43 AM

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