Update: One serious injury was reported. See below.
No kidding? The Dallas Voice’s blog is reporting that a gay bar in Ft. Worth, Texas, was raided sometime last night:
According to [Ft. Worth Star-Telegram former critic Todd] Camp, the newly-opened Rainbow Lounge is “the only cool gay bar in town,” but the police raided it, arresting numerous patrons for no reason.
I got another perspective in my in-box this morning:
The not awesome thing was the paddy wagon of homophobic police that showed up … looking for trouble. My group and I were sitting on the back patio at a picnic table. Nobody was being wild out there. [The police] came through with flashlights, being loud asking what was going on out here, then asked why everyone was all the sudden being quiet. When one group started up their conversations again, they took one guy away. I left shortly after and as I walked through the front bar there were numerous cops with plastic handcuffs all ready to go. I [left] the bar and they [had] a big van in the parking lot and numerous cars on the street. And just so you know, it wasn’t fire hazard crowded or seedy wild in there. … The worst part is [friends later told me] that [the police] had numerous people face down on the ground outside. I just moved to Fort Worth from Dallas, so this is such a shock to me. I know Dallas would not put up with this. … I am still so shocked it is 2009 and this just happened.
Anyone else there last night? Write to me (email@example.com) or my editor (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Other reporters at the Dallas Voice are receiving more first-hand accounts which confirm the above statement. Eyewitnesses say that some ten to twenty people have been arrested. One patron was this visitor from Santa Cruz, California:
We and a few of our friends went to the new Rainbow Lounge last night to dance and have some fun. I was in the VIP section when police officers started coming up there. The first arrest (that we saw) was right in front of me in that section.
They asked the guy if he had been drinking, and he said some, and they snidely replied, “Well, we’ll see how much!” and plastic handcuffed him as they read him his rights The guy was doing NOTHIG [sic] wrong. It was utterly repugnant.
Once I saw this happen, I decided to try and speak with one of the police officers themselves, to go straight to the source and get their side. My sister Kelly and I simply started asking what they were doing here, stating how suspicious it seemed on this date and in this specific club, etc. This was a “State Policeman,” whose name I forgot, who tried to explain their actions by referring to “anonymous tips” and “disgruntled ex-bartenders.” We pointed out the place was open a week, so the disgruntled ex-bartender source seemed a bit unlikely! He wouldn’t really answer my questions. although he did try to grab my hand and flirt with me (which was completely uninvited).
They have also received several photos taken by patrons using their cell phones. Numerous patrons report rough treatment by police. Several fled to a nearby home, fearing arrest if they tried to leave the house to get into their cars. There is one report that one man was slammed to the floor and is now hospitalized with a head injury. Another eyewitness said that police gave her the same excuse about responding to complaints from “former bartender” at the week-old business. She also observed that police appeared to be specifically targeting effeminate men.
Local activists are calling for protests tonight. One was scheduled for the Rainbow lounge at 5 p.m. CST today, with another one set for the Tarrant County Courthouse in downtown Fort Worth at 7 p.m.
Update: The Dallas Voice has an update on Chad Gibson, the young man who was hospitalized for a head injury. The initial CAT scan showed little or no damage, but a second CAT scan performed this afternoon indicates that “the bleeding in his brain had increased.” Chad has no memory of the incident in the bar, and his memory of events today (visitors and conversations with doctors) “have been spotty.” Chad is being treated at John Peter Smith Hospital in Ft. Worth.
The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram has more details. Seven people were reportedly arrested at the Rainbow Lounge. Ft. Worth Police are offering a sort of a “gay panic defense, claiming that patrons made “sexually explicit moves” toward the police. The bar’s general manager and other patrons dispute that:
The general manager of the Rainbow Lounge and several patrons disputed the police account, saying officers used excessive force to make arrests.
“He was just walking to the bathroom when an officer grabbed him and shoved him against a wall and pulled his head back,” said Chris Hightower of Fort Worth, a friend of the injured patron. “He (the injured man) was then thrown to the ground and three other officers were on him.”
Several patrons claimed that the officers were never assaulted.
“I have friends who are cops and I know what to do when officers are working,” Camp said. “No one was acting aggressive to officers.”
Camp said that he has been attending bars for years in Fort Worth when TABC conducts raids.
“Usually, they’re very orderly and respectful – they work with the bar staff and check IDs, it’s quick and painful and then it’s over and then they’re out,” Camp said. “This was not that. This was harassment, plain and simple.”
General manager Randy Norman said the bar had just been open a week and they had complied with all ordinances.
“Officers just don’t come in armed with zip ties and a paddy wagon for a routine check of a bar,” Norman said.
KTVT, the Dallas CBS affiliate has this:
Raymond Gill was at the bar early Sunday morning. He says one of the TABC officers targeted him. “I asked him why I was pulled outside. He stated it was because the way I was walking. He said I looked like I was drunk. But as I stated, I got to the bar 30 minutes before they got there. I sat down had not got up before police got there. No one saw me walk.”
…Fort Worth police arrested seven people for reported public intoxication, and for reportedly inappropriately groping an officer. It’s an allegation witness Chuck Potter disputes.
“I can guarantee there wasn’t a man in this bar that would’ve touched one of those officers, knowing they were arresting people.”
WFAA, the Dallas ABC affiliate confirms that Chad Gibson is in the Intensive Care Unit at John Peter Smith Hospital in Ft. Worth with bleeding on the brain. Chad was ticketed but not arrested:
Danny Crockett said he saw four officers detain Gibson.
“They choked his head back, pulled him back and then slammed him against the wall,” he said.