Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Sending the Devil to Hell for a Trial?: DFW Leaders Demand Independent Investigation in Rainbow Lounge Raid

raid-on-eve-of-stonewall-001Fort Worth, TX – In the wee hours of Sunday, June 28, 40 years to the day after the Stonewall Inn Raid in Greenwich Village that sparked the Stonewall Rebellion against anti-LGBT oppression, officers of the Fort Worth Police and the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission raided the Rainbow Lounge.  Unlike other so-called “checks” of liquor licenses, the police came hot to trot with a paddy wagon, plastic zip cuffs, and bad attitudes, according to many eye-witnesses and targets in the bar.  Word spread fast.  Now the Rainbow Lounge Raid is making national and international news, and the police are changing their tunes about what they did on that fateful night when LGBT Pride was challenged by force once again.  Originally, FWPD Chief of Police Halstead claimed that officers had been “groped” by at least one patron of the bar, and that the severe cranial injury sustained by Chad Gibson, 26, who was arrested for “public intoxication” was due to “alcohol poisoning.”  This is not the first time some version of the tired “gay panic defense” has been marshaled to justify overkill in the treatment of LGBT people.  Ironically, hate crimes perpetrators are generally the ones who use the “blame the victim” technique to blur the oppression of LGBT people.  That peace officers used it in Fort Worth is nearly as noteworthy as their choice of the Stonewall Anniversary to carry out their assault.  Now Chief Halstead is changing stories, saying that Gibson, who is still critical in John Peter Smith Hospital in ICU, was injured “while in custody of the TABC.”

Local business, civic, and activist leaders are calling for an independent investigation of the actions of the FWPD and the TABC during the Raid.  Fearing loss of face for Cowtown, as well as loss of business, leaders are demanding more than an internal investigation that may be self-serving at best.  Meanwhile, Gibson struggles to heal.  No costs of his hospitalization or damages will be forthcoming from the officers who slammed his head into a bathroom step at the Rainbow Lounge, for they are indemnified against facing responsibility for what they did by the state and the city.  Too bad.  As long as harsh treatment can be whitewashed clean by internal investigations and bureaucratic red tape, LGBT people cannot feel safe anywhere in the Metroplex.  The Rainbow Lounge Raid proves that much, at least.  The public has yet to hear a full-throated demand for justice from the Fort Worth LGBT community.  While some are courageously speaking out, the so-called “Fort Worth way” is in full display, with queer folk in Cowtown still keeping their heads low for the most part.  Chad GibsonAs the days drag on from the time of the Raid, and as Gibson fights to get better from bleeding on the brain in ICU, the Fort Worth LGBT community may yet find its voice.  One of the most telling witness statements from a patron of the Rainbow Lounge on the night of the raid was that the assault by police “was just like Stonewall without fighting back.”  The spirit of Stonewall is resistance, plain an simple.  Non-resistance is not and never has been the Stonewall way, and Fort Worth LGBT people and their allies have to find more spine if they are to have freedom and equality in deep, dark red Tarrant County, stronghold of right wing Republicanism in North Texas.

This story has all the makings of a regional earthquake in human rights: Excessive police force, severely injured LGBT people, gay panic defense, police cover-up attempts, heterosexist attitudes, terror in the queer community, and finally, the will to resist on the part of gay men and lesbians who have had enough jawboning and harm from their elected leaders and law enforcement agencies.  Passively allowing the law enforcement agencies and city officials responsible for this outrage to mollify the public with “internal investigations” is like sending the Devil to Hell for a trial.  No jury in perdition would ever find him guilty.  Without consistent pressure coupled with open communications, things will pretty much go back to homophobic normal in Cowtown.  Instead of an earthquake, all Fort Worth may experience from this unwarranted use of brute force will be a shrug.  The coming days will see if the North Texas children of Stonewall will rise up and seize the moment, or not.

Steve Profile Vineyard Websize ~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Director of the Unfinished Lives Project

July 1, 2009 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Domestic Violence, gay men, gay panic defense, harassment, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, Lesbian women, police brutality, Politics, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sending the Devil to Hell for a Trial?: DFW Leaders Demand Independent Investigation in Rainbow Lounge Raid

   

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