QL outlines demands to Fort Worth officials

Posted on 24 Jul 2009 at 12:31am
By Blake Wilkinson and Rick Vanderslice Queer LiberAction

Leaders of direct action organization say their tactics have already gotten results, are necessary to get all questions fully answered

On June 28, GLBT Texans marched through the streets of Oak Lawn to remember the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellions. Since that time, we’ve stayed active in the streets to protest the harassment, intimidation and violence against GLBT people.

After the June 28 march, as we listened to speakers in Lee Park talk on holding politicians’ feet to the fire and staying active and involved, the North Texas GLBT community began to hear the grim stories coming out about the raid at the Rainbow Lounge.

Those of us with Queer LiberAction had done a lot of the organizing for the march and as we sat listening to speakers talk on the lessons of Stonewall, we knew we had to continue with the fight.

From the march in Dallas, many of us traveled out to the Tarrant County Courthouse to join a rally against the raid at the Rainbow Lounge. We called for another rally in the following days to send the message that we are still active, we are still watching, and we still have demands.

QL members met and did what we do best; we hammered out a direct action plan addressing the violence used against our community at the Rainbow Lounge.

We knew it was going to be a big challenge to organize three events in the next couple weeks, but we also knew that if this wasn’t done that these events could easily be forgotten about and ignored.

Hundreds of us showed up at the candlelight vigil in front of the Rainbow Lounge on July 1 to stand in solidarity with Chad Gibson, the young gay man hospitalized after the Rainbow Lounge raid, possibly due to violence used against him by the Forth Worth Police Department and the TABC. We were in grief and shock, but we were resolute that we were not going to allow our North Texas community to return to 1969.

We soon got angry, and knew we had to share that with our neighbors. Queer LiberAction set up its public speaking Milk Box event on July 5 to give North Texans, and particularly witnesses to the raid, an opportunity to share their stories of police harassment and intimidation.

With some 15 speakers from varied backgrounds, approximately 200 in attendance and many media outlets present, we got the attention of our neighbors, the city of Fort Worth, the police department and the TABC.

Our rally and march held on July 12 at the Tarrant County Courthouse was designed to be an event where we would either congratulate the city and TABC on their fine job in righting the wrong of the raid at the Rainbow Lounge, or we would be there just the same, ready to hold our elected officials’ feet to the fire and demand justice.

At our rally we posted our demands on the door of the Tarrant County Courthouse. At the end of the rally, hundreds of us took to the streets of downtown Fort Worth and marched thirteen blocks to post the same demands on the doors of the Fort Worth City Hall.

At the largest GLBT march in Fort Worth history, our voice was the loudest and clearest it had been to date.

We were united; we had demands, and we had to speak out knowing justice was on our side.

Given ongoing developments, our current list of demands is below:

• We demand full transparency regarding all independent investigations of both the TABC and the Fort Worth Police Department regarding their conduct during the Rainbow Lounge Raid, early on June 28, 2009.

• We demand a public apology from Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead to all of the patrons present at the Rainbow Lounge Raid, and to the GLBT community of North Texas, for the assault on our human rights and for his disrespectful and homophobic language and posturing.

• We demand Police Chief Halstead provide full and immediate transparency to the public by waiving the delaying requirement for news media to file open records requests to review police reports.

• We demand that the TABC promptly release all of their officers’ reports from the Rainbow Lounge raid to the news media and public.

• We demand that in future operations of this kind, law enforcement officials operate under a presumption of innocence, fully respecting the human rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

• We demand that Mayor Mike Moncrief reinstate his apology to our community which he subsequently backed away from after the July 12 City Council meeting.

• We demand Mayor Moncrief seriously begin considering and addressing the legitimate needs and issues of the GLBT community of Fort Worth, including a full-time publicly funded liaison officer to our community.

• We demand full accountability and justice for the excessive and illegal actions of law enforcement officers during the Rainbow Lounge raid.

• We demand all official agencies found responsible for the injuries inflicted on Chad Gibson during the Rainbow Lounge raid stand good for all the medical expenses he has accrued to date, and may in the future, due to their actions.

At the Fort Worth City Council meeting on July 14, one of our demands was met. However begrudgingly, two weeks and two days after the raid the mayor finally apologized for what happened in Fort Worth — but only after Queer LiberAction members called on him to do so.

Queer LiberAction was disappointed that the raid at the Rainbow Lounge was placed dead last on the council agenda.

Given the length of the agenda, the GLBT community was scheduled to wait until the early hours of the morning to address this assault on us.

After 40 years, two weeks and two days of violence and intimidation used by the police against the queer community, we were running out of patience.

Mayor Moncrief and other city officials know very well that stall tactics drive away interest. Ultimately, all that is left of important stories such as the harassment and intimidation used at the Rainbow Lounge become whispers in the middle of the night.

Moncrief et al. knew the city of Fort Worth and his police department were wrong and operated under the assumption that GLBT North Texans were going to sit by passively and accept direction from our political betters. Queer LiberAction members stood up and proudly said that violence against our people will never again become whispers in the middle of the night.

The past several weeks have proven once again that direct action gets results. Though we are glad several of our demands have been met, we know now is not the time to rest.

On Sunday, July 27, QL will set up its Milk box at Houston and Third streets in Fort Worth’s Sundance Square beginning at 7 p.m. We will host a public teach-in on Friday, July 31 in order to educate the public on the consequences of homophobia and heterosexism.

Our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights movement comes after a long history of social agitation to advance the rights of oppressed groups. As diverse as we are as GLBT people, we are all unified by the burden of the closet.

In order for us to overcome our oppression and win our full civil rights we must proudly stand up in the tradition of the greats like Martin Luther King Jr., Mohandas Gandhi and heroes within our own movement like Harry Hay and Harvey Milk.

Unlike other oppressed groups, the closet forces us to come out to survive. If we are to survive and prosper in society, we have to stand up and proudly show who we are for all to see.

Find out more about the direct action politics of Queer LiberAction on our Web site, www.queerliberaction.org.

Blake Wilkinson is the founder of Queer LiberAction. Rick Vanderslice is co-creator of The Rick and RJ Collaborative at www.rickandrj.com and member of Queer LiberAction Board of Advisors.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 24, 2009.

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