‘Rainbow Lounge’ doc premieres in Fort Worth

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For the first half hour of Thursday night’s premiere in Fort Worth of Robert Camina’s documentary Raid of the Rainbow Lounge, the audience sat completely still and silent. Many were in tears as they relived the horror of the raid. Among those in the audience was Chad Gibson, who was injured in the raid and later settled with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the city of Fort Worth for more than $600,000.

Not until attorney Jon Nelson rebutted Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead’s assertion that it wasn’t a raid with the comment, “If it walks like a raid and quacks like a raid, it’s a raid,” did the audience break out into applause.

While Nelson was applauded the most through the film, raid witness Todd Camp got the most laughs. His first was when he described the police officers who claimed in their report that the officers were groped during the raid as having a “Village People fixation.”

Halstead is the “character” in the film that evolves most. The week of the raid, he’s seen reading from his officers’ report and defending his department. He said the comments of one woman at the first city council meeting after the raid affected him the most. She had driven from San Francisco to speak. He said he wondered what could have affected someone so much that she decided to drive halfway across the country to speak for three minutes and then turn around and drive back home. At that moment, he began to understand the frustration and anger of the community.

Mayor Mike Moncrief is the person who comes across the worst on film. He appears to have been cornered into making an apology that anyone in the city was hurt. Unlike Halstead, he did not appear in an on-camera interview in the film.

After the film, Halstead, who attended the premiere, again apologized for offending the community with his initial reaction and said that his department has changed. He said that within weeks of the raid, three male officers came out to him.

Halstead told the audience that when a similar raid happened in Atlanta 10 weeks later, he got a call from the acting chief in that city.

“Jeff, help me,” Atlanta’s chief said.

Halstead said that the atmosphere in the Fort Worth Police Department is completely different now than it was less than three years ago. When a rookie class is training, he said he enjoys introducing Sara Straten, the city’s first LGBT community liaison, by saying, “This is Sara. She’s a lesbian.” He said the reaction is always, “Did he really just say that?”

But he said that the raid has made a difference in training on a variety of issues including how officers respond to domestic violence calls.

Meredith Baxter, who narrated the film, spoke briefly at the premiere about how she became involved: A lot of nagging from Fairness Fort Worth President Tom Anable.

The film will be shown in Dallas at the Magnolia Theater on April 25. Tickets are available at RaidoftheRainbowLounge.com.

 

 

—  David Taffet