‘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

What’s Brewing: Obama kicks off 2012 re-election campaign; police raid gay bar in Shanghai

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

President Barack Obama

1. President Barack Obama formally launched his 2012 re-election campaign this morning. Above is the video sent via email to supporters.

2. Police in Shanghai, China, raided a popular gay bar over the weekend and took more than 60 people into custody. Customers and staff members from Q Bar reportedly were detained for up to 12 hours in cold rooms with no food or water.

3. The military will be ready to implement the repeal “don’t ask don’t tell” by mid-summer, a Pentagon official told a House committee on Friday.

—  John Wright

DA’s office confirms that charges have been dismissed or rejected in all 11 Club Dallas cases

The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office has now dismissed or rejected charges against all 11 of the men arrested in a controversial police raid at a gay bathhouse in October.

Jamille Bradfield, a spokeswoman for the DA’s office, confirmed today that 10 of the cases have been dismissed, while one was rejected and therefore will not be filed.

Bradfield said District Attorney Craig Watkins was out of the office and unavailable for comment. Bradfield said it’s possible that Watkins will be available for comment Thursday about why the DA’s office chose not to prosecute the cases.

Watkins previously has declined to discuss the matter because some of the cases were still pending.

Defense attorneys have said they believe the cases were dismissed over questions about whether the bathhouse, Club Dallas on Swiss Avenue in Deep Ellum, is considered a public place. Court documents say only that the cases were dismissed “in the interest of justice.”

Ten of the 11 men were charged with public lewdness or indecent exposure after undercover officers observed them engaging in various sex acts inside the business. An employee was charged with interfering with police after he refused to allow uniformed officers into the club to execute the arrests.

Dallas police have said they conducted the raid, the first of its kind in recent memory, in response to a citizen complaint. But police officials have declined to comment on whether they’ll conduct vice operations at Club Dallas or other gay bathhouses in the future, given that the DA’s office dismissed the cases.

“The Dallas Police Department recently learned that many of the charges involving activities at The Club Dallas in October 2010 were dismissed,” DPD said in a statement last month. “The department plans to meet with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office as soon as possible regarding these cases. The purpose of the meeting is to determine the cause of the dismissals, and to determine what, if any, procedural changes may be needed. An update will be provided following the meeting.”

—  John Wright

In defense of Fort Worth’s response to the Rainbow Lounge raid

Jon Nelson

By Jon Nelson  |  Fairness Fort Worth

I read with interest the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle’s commentary contrasting the Atlanta outcome with Fort Worth’s after raids at gay bars in each city. He concludes that “Factors contributing to the non-resolution of the Fort Worth police raid may include a less-than-robust defense of bar patrons by the Rainbow Lounge ownership at the time of the bust, and the less aggressive approach Fort Worth gay leaders employed to bring the city and the police department to account.”

The headline contrasts the $1 million settlement with none in Fort Worth. Although the Rev. Sprinkle doesn’t mention this as a contrast, I’ll deal with it anyway. The Atlanta suit was filed by a private attorney on behalf of 19 patrons of the club and no such lawsuit has yet been filed in Fort Worth .The LGBT community formed Fairness Fort Worth at the outset and stepped forward to represent the community. The injustice experienced was against the patrons and not the bar owner nor any employees of the bar. This contrasts sharply with the facts in Atlanta where the police targeted both the bar and its patrons.

The Rev. Sprinkle’s one striking contrast is his belief that the Fort Worth Police Department has never issued an apology and Atlanta has. I have attended at least three meeting where Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead has publicly apologized; the last one was in front of the Rainbow Lounge at a news conference held on Nov. 5, 2009.

The Rev. Sprinkle writes that there has been a “non-resolution” of the raid on the Rainbow lounge. Let me share with you what has happened since the raid and, in the words of the Rev. Sprinkle, “You be the judge”:

—  admin

Atlanta Eagle’s $1 million settlement stands in sharp contrast to Rainbow Lounge outcome

Stephen V. Sprinkle  |  Unfinished Lives

The Atlanta City Council has voted 14-0 to award the Atlanta Eagle Bar $1 million in response to a federal lawsuit filed by a private attorney on behalf of 19 clients unjustly arrested in a botched police raid last September, according to a report by WTVM News 9 and the Associated Press.

The night of Sept. 10, 2009, four dozen police crashed the Underwear Night special event at the Atlanta Eagle, slamming patrons to the floor, using homophobic slurs, and arresting and detaining 62 people. Police targeted the gay bar on the pretext of illicit sex and drugs, allegations that were never proven.

The owner of the Eagle, Richard Ramey, went immediately on the offensive against the raid, saying to The Atlanta Journal Constitution on Sept. 12, 2009, ”Our problem is with the way our customers were treated.”

Nick Koperski, a bar patron present at the time of the raid, said in the same article: “I’m thinking, this is Stonewall. It’s like I stepped into the wrong decade.”

The Atlanta Police Department refused to cooperate with an investigation by the Atlanta Citizens Council. Charges brought against employees and patrons either failed to win convictions, collapsed for lack of evidence, or were otherwise dismissed, according to a report by EDGE.

Last March eight employees of the bar were found not guilty of trumped up charges by the Atlanta Police Department in a ruling handed down in Municipal Court.

Investigations into the raid found that the Atlanta Police Department did not have a warrant to raid the bar on the night in question. Mandatory revisions to police procedures will be carried out in response to the settlement.

The vindication of the Atlanta Eagle stands in sharp contrast to the outcome of the Fort Worth Police Department’s infamous raid on the Rainbow Lounge just months before the Atlanta debacle. Like the Georgia raid, all charges against patrons arrested at the popular Fort Worth gay bar have been dropped without comment from the city.

Unlike the Atlanta outcome, however, the Fort Worth Police Department has never issued an apology or admitted any wrongdoing in the illicit raid on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

This has been in spite of the public action disciplining officers of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) for their part in the raid, and a formal apology issued by the executive of the TABC. Factors contributing to the non-resolution of the Fort Worth police raid may include a less-than-robust defense of bar patrons by the Rainbow Lounge ownership at the time of the bust, and the less aggressive approach Fort Worth gay leaders employed to bring the city and the police department to account.

Justice for Atlanta, but how about for Fort Worth? We guess the mayor of Fort Worth has more control over the courts, the press, and the gay establishment in North Texas than the mayor of Atlanta. A good thing? You be the judge.

—  admin

2 arrested in anti-gay beating at famed gay bar

JENNIFER PELTZ  |  Associated Press

NEW YORK — A patron at the Stonewall Inn, a powerful symbol of the gay rights movement since protests over a 1969 police raid there, was tackled to the floor and beaten in an anti-gay bias attack over the weekend, authorities said Monday, Oct. 4.

Two men were arrested in the early Sunday beating, which came little more than a day after a group of male friends bidding an affectionate good night to each other were attacked in another anti-gay assault elsewhere in Manhattan, prosecutors said.

The attacks came amid heightened attention to anti-gay bullying following a string of suicides attributed to it last month, including a New Jersey college student’s Sept. 22 plunge off the George Washington Bridge after his sexual encounter with a man in his dorm room was secretly streamed online.

But the attack prosecutors described at the Stonewall Inn especially galled and saddened gay rights advocates, some of whom wondered whether a place known for a defining moment in the history of gay rights might spur a new push for tolerance.

For the Stonewall’s owners, the episode was a sharp and upsetting contrast to its legacy.

“We at the Stonewall Inn are exceedingly troubled that hate crimes like this can and do still occur in this day and age. Obviously the impact of these men’s violent actions is even deeper given that it occurred on the premises of the Stonewall Inn,” an owner, Bill Morgan, wrote in an e-mail.

The victim was using a restroom at the Greenwich Village bar around 2 a.m. local time Sunday when a man at the next urinal, Matthew Francis, asked what kind of an establishment it was, prosecutors said. On being told it was a gay bar, Francis used an anti-gay slur and told the victim to get away from him, assistant district attorney Kiran Singh said.

“I don’t like gay people. Don’t pee next to me,” Francis added, according to the prosecutor.

Francis, 21, then demanded money, punched the victim in the face and continued beating him after a co-defendant blocked the door, tackled the victim and held him down, Singh said. The victim was treated at a hospital and was released, she said.

Francis said nothing at his arraignment Monday. A defense lawyer said that Francis wasn’t the aggressor and that the episode wasn’t motivated by bias.

“Mr. Francis is not a violent person. Nor did he try to rob anyone,” said the attorney, Angel Soto. “There may have been a fight, but it certainly wasn’t a hate crime.”

Francis was held on $10,000 bond. His co-defendant was awaiting arraignment.

Just before midnight Friday, Oct. 1 several male friends hugging and kissing each other good night in Manhattan’s gay-friendly Chelsea neighborhood were confronted by a group of more than five people who used an anti-gay epithet and told them to go home because “this is our neighborhood,” according to a court document filed by prosecutors. Two other men lashed out with fists as Andrew Jackson hurled a metal garbage can into one victim’s head, prosecutors said.

Jackson, 20, was arraigned over the weekend on hate crime assault and other charges. His lawyer, Anne Costanzo, declined to comment Monday.

The Stonewall Inn became a rallying point for gay rights in June 1969, when a police raid sparked an uprising in an era when gay men and women were often in the shadows. Stonewall patrons fought with officers, and several days of demonstrations followed, in an outpouring that became a formative moment in the gay rights movement.

“The riots at Stonewall gave way to protests, and protests gave way to a movement, and the movement gave way to a transformation that continues to this day,” President Barack Obama said at a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month reception at the White House in June 2009.

The Stonewall riots’ influence also is reflected in the names of some gay resource organizations, including student groups at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa.

For the New York City Anti-Violence Project, which works to combat attacks on gays and others, assaults like this weekend’s remain all too common problems. But the attack at the Stonewall Inn reverberates with a particularly disturbing resonance, executive director Sharon Stapel said.

“Even in a bar like the Stonewall Inn, which started a huge part of the gay rights movement — even the Stonewall Inn is not immune to this sort of violence, despite all of the work that they do to create a safe and tolerant atmosphere,” Stapel said. “It’s incredibly sad.”

But she said she hoped the incident and the atmosphere of concern about anti-gay harassment would spark new conversations about how to respond.

The Stonewall Inn has raised money for the Anti-Violence Project and other groups, and managers strive to make the bar inclusive, Morgan said.

“We do our best to run a nice, welcoming establishment where anyone can and should feel safe,” he said.

—  John Wright