Ft. Worth Mayor Apologizes For Rainbow Lounge Raid; LGBT Police Liaison Announced
July 15th, 2009
About two dozen LGBT citizens and allies spoke before the Ft. Worth city council last night about the June 28 raid on the Rainbow Lounge by Ft. Worth police and agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. They were there to ask city council members to apologize for what happen and ensure that such a raid will never happen again:
One woman said she had traveled some 1,500 miles from San Francisco to lend her support. A few speakers said they were not gay, but that they wanted the council to know that it was not just the gay community concerned about the actions of Fort Worth and TABC officers that night.
One woman described in detail what she saw during the inspection.
“That was the first time I was ever afraid of the police,” said Sarah Bryant, who had been at the bar with her boyfriend that night. “After that, I was overwhelmed with disappointment and I guess a little bit disturbed. … We just need your help to move on.”
The violent raid on the Rainbow Lounge took place on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. Chad Gibson was severely injured with a head trauma which resulted in him being sent to intensive care with bleeding in his brain. His full recovery may take as long as two years. FWPD and TABC are both conducting separate internal investigations into the raid, and the acting U.S. Attorney James Jack will independently review those investigations when they are completed. Meanwhile FWPD has suspended all cooperative activities with the TABC pending the outcome of these investigations,
One woman in the audience asked Ft. Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief why he hasn’t apologized for Gibson having to be hospitalized, “If you want an apology from your mayor, I am sorry for what happened in Ft. Worth. I am sorry,” Moncrief replied. According to the Associated Press, the crowd stood and applaused. The Star-Telegram merely said the apology drew “some applause.”
More than 250 people packed city council chambers for the meeting, with another 150 people gathered outside watching it on television monitors.
The meeting got off to a bad start when seven Dallas-based protesters from Queer LiberAction tried to disrupt the meeting. Those protesters were angry because the Rainbow Lounge discussion was placed last on the open discussion portion of the city council agenda — a normal spot when a particular topic is known to be of high interest and will likely generate a lot of discussion. Putting it last ensures that the other topics are discussed and gotten out of the way before the big one begins. But I guess there are always some people who are more interested in theater than action, demanding that their oppressed voices be heard when the topic is already right there on the agenda. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed:
While the outbursts from protesters brought a smattering of support, most at the meeting seemed bothered by the interruptions and broke out in applause when marshals escorted the men out and thanked Moncrief for working with the gay community.
DeeJay Johannessen approached the microphone and said he understood putting such speakers at the end of the meeting is a common practice.
“We are willing to wait. We’re going to be here. We look forward to talking to you. We looking forward to resolving this issue with you,” he said, prompting some to give him a standing ovation.
Real progress was made at the meeting. In addition to the Mayor’s apology, Ft. Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead announced the appointment of Officer Sara Straten as liaison to the city’s LGBT community. Officer Straten is a 17-year veteran of the police force. Meanwhile, the internal investigations continue, with the FWPD considering theirs a high-priority investigation, and have so far interviewed 33 eyewitnesses since the start of the investigation. They expect to complete the investigation in 30 days.