The Daily Agenda for Saturday, October 12
October 12th, 2013
Other Events This Weekend: Alaska Pride Conference, Anchorage, AK; Iris Prize Film Festival, Cardiff, UK; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; Octobearfest, Denver, CO; Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; QCinema Film Festival, Ft. Worth, TX; Black and Blue Festival, Montréal, QC; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Special Police Squad Trained to Target Gays: 1961. Gay bars were treacherous places. They were, for most patrons, the only place where they could socialize, but they couldn’t socialize freely. You always had to be on your guard. If you were to see someone you liked, and you struck up a conversation and felt that certain chemistry, and if he put his hand on your knee and you took that as an opening to invite him to your place, that invitation to an undercover agent in California would lead to a raid and the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Department (ABC) revoking the bar’s license.
Things used to be easier for the ABC. There was a time when all they had to do to shut a bar down was to demonstrate that the patrons were mainly gay. But the state Supreme Court ruled in 1951 that the ABC had to provide evidence that there were “offensive and disorderly acts” taking place (see Aug 28). And so the ABC deployed undercover agents to dig up that evidence, which often consisted of nothing more than an invitation to retire elsewhere — or accepting such an invitation from an agent. Those agents were particularly aggressive in San Francisco, so much so that they became fairly well known. Their covers mostly blown, the ABC turned to the San Francisco police department, which was already happily conducting raids on gay bars on its own (see Aug 13). A report by the San Francisco Examiner revealed that the ABC agreed to train handsome young officers who were new to the force (and were therefore not well known) “on what to look for, and how to act and dress” while undercover. The Examiner reported that the joint operation was showing results, with charges field against three more “alleged ‘gay’ bars.”
The accusations, base d largely on observations and experiences of undercover policemen, were filed by the ABC against the Hideaway, 438 Eddy St.; the Jumping Frog, 2111 Polk St., and Cal’s Tavern, 782 O’Farrell St.
Norbert Falvey, ABC supervisor here, said city policemen are being used because “our manpower is limited, and our State liquor agents here are known.”
Falvey said the liaison and joint “attrition” by his department and Police Chief Thomas Cahill is showing results, with the number of “gay” bars decreasing. Last year, there were 30 such establishments here. That number now has dropped to 18, with 15 license revocation proceedings pending, Falvey said.
The timing of The Examiner’s article hit a particular nerve, as San Francisco was experiencing a wave of robberies and assaults on the Muni system, including one horrific murder the previous April. The mayor ordered the Chief Cahill to step up patrols, but the chief said he was short of personnel. Letters poured in to The Examiner’s editor from concerned citizens complaining about the department’s skewed priorities. One letter writer, protesting that while he would never himself go into a gay bar, denounced “these Gestapo-like tactics (as) inimical to the American way of life, an infringement on the basic constitutional rights of every citizen to free assembly and free speech.” A mother of four teenagers said that she “would rather have my children protected on Muni buses than from the dangers in bars where they would never go in the first place.” And a doctor, recalling the murder on the “J” line in April, asked:
If the present attempts to revoke licenses are a success, then the closing of gay bars will be synonymous with a great increase in contacts with teen-agers in the streets by evicted homosexuals resulting in more muggings, extortion and other types of brutality a la “J” line. Are law-enforcement agencies not exchanging one evil for a far more serious one?”
[Source: Ernest Lenn. “Revoking Evidence Sought: Special Cops for ‘Gay’ Bars.” The San Fransisco Examiner (October 12, 1961). As reprinted with accompanying unsigned commentary in The Mattachine Review 7, no 11 (November 1961): 4-8.]
15 YEARS AGO: Matthew Shephard Died: 1998. For a week Matthew Shepard’s family had been maintaining a vigil at his bedside as he lay in a coma following a brutal assault at an open field outside of Laramie, Wyoming (see Oct 6). He suffered fractures from the back of his head to the front of his right ear from being pistol-whipped by a 357-Magnum more than twenty times. He had severe brain stem damage which affected his body’s ability to control heart rate, breathing, temperature, and other involuntary functions. There were lacerations around his head, face and neck. He had welts on his back and arm, and bruised knees and groin. He had also suffered from hypothermia. His injuries were too severe for doctors to operate. They did however insert a drain into Matthew’s skull to relieve the pressure on his brain. Finally, the Poudre Valley Hospital’s CEO Rulon Stacey released this medical update during a hastily called press conference at 4:30 a.m.:
At 12 midnight on Monday, October 12, Matthew Shepard’s blood pressure began to drop. We immediately notified his family who were already at the hospital. At 12:53 a.m. Matthew Shepard died, his family was at his bedside.
Matthew arrived at 9:15 p.m. Wednesday, October 7, in critical condition. Matthew remained in critical condition during his entire stay at Poudre Valley Hospital. During his stay, efforts to improve his condition proved to no avail. Matthew died while on full life support measures.
Michael Sandy: 1977. He would have turned thirty-six years old today if it hadn’t been for the fact that on October 8, 2006. he was lured to a secluded Plumb Beach in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn by four others who he met in an AOL chat room. When he arrived at the beach, the four pulled him out of his car and assaulted him. When he tried to escape, they chased him toward a busy freeway while he tried to call for help on his cell phone. They caught up with him at a guardrail. One of them pushed him over the guard rail and into the right lane, and punched him again. He fell back into the middle lane and was struck by an SUV. His attackers then dragged him back to the side of the road, where one of them riffled through his pockets before they fled.
Sandy was taken to Brookdale Hospital and put on a respirator. He remained on life support for five days without regaining consciousness. He died on October 13, just one day after his twenty-ninth birthday, after his family decided to remove life support.
The police investigation showed that the four selected Sandy because he was gay, believing that a gay man would hesitate to resist or call the police. Gary Timmins, 17, pleaded guilty to attempted robbery with a hate crime enhancement. As part of his plea agreement, he testified against his friends in exchange for a four-year prison sentence. John Fox, 20, who posed as a gay man in the chat room, was found guilty of manslaughter and first degree attempted robbery, both as hate crimes. He was was sentenced to between 13 and 21 years in prison. Anthony Fortunato, 21, tried to avoid the hate crime enhancement by claiming he was gay himself. He was the one who initiated contact with Sandy in the Internet chat room. He was convicted of manslaughter and petty larceny, and was sentenced to 7 to 21 years. Ilya Shurov, 21, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and attempted robbery as hate crimes. He was the one who pulled Sandy out of his car, punched him, and led the chase onto the freeway. He also went through Sandy’s pockets at the side of the freeway. Before accepting his plea deal, he had been charged with felony murder as a hate crime and was facing a life sentence. He was sentenced to 17½ years.
Before the sentences were handed down, Sandy’s father, Zeke Sandy, stood up in court and said, “These hate crimes become a cancer; it’s a disease. I don’t know why we have to go butcher one another because we don’t like what they are, who they are.” Despite the police and prosecutor’s determination that this was a hate crime, Michael Sandy’s high-profile death was not included in the FBI’s 2006 hate crimes statistics.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?