Today In History, 1954: Nineteen Arrested in Miami Bar Raids

Jim Burroway

August 14th, 2016

Miami’s media-driven anti-gay hysteria showed no signs of letting up (Aug 3, Aug 11, Aug 12, Aug 13 (twice)). Just the day before (Aug 13), Florida’s acting governor threatened to replace Dade County Sheriff Thomas J. Kelly for allegedly permitting “wide open” gambling and “failing to prevent the concentration of sex perverts in the county which had become emphasized recently.” It’s unknown what actions Sheriff Kelly took to curb gambling, but it only took him a day to put together a raid on several of the city’s gay bars. Nineteen were arrested, and a photo of one of the drag queens (sans wig) was splashed onto the front page of The Miami News:

Front page news.

Raiders Seize 19 in Pervert Roundup.

Nineteen suspected perverts were arrested early today in Miami and Miami Beach by raiding deputy sheriffs. The men were booked on vagrancy charges and held for a venereal disease check. One suspect was released in custody of his attorney. Deputies did not name the suspects.

Sheriff Thomas J. Kelly said his deputies had been watching bars where perverts had been seen and had made floor plans of each place to be visited.

Deputy Gerald Butler said Dr. M.J. Takos, Dade County Venereal Disease Control director, checked each person brought in by deputies. Dr. Takos decided which men were to be held.

Places on the list included the Good Hotel, Stockade Bar, Echo Club, El Morocco Bar, Sambo Bar, Circus Bar, Charles Hotel Bar, DeMarco Bar, Alibi Bar, Shanticleer [sic] Bar, Leon and Eddies, the Little Club, and Singapore Lounge, Butler reported.

Deputies taking part in the raids included Earl Venno, Bill McCrory, Bob Thomas, Paul Huizenga, Dick Shelton, Al Hickland, Frank Cilencion, and Joe Gorman.

Butler said the deputies were warned against “unnecessary rough stuff.”

Sheriff Kelly said “we don’t want perverts to set up housekeeping in this county. We want them to know that they’re not welcome.”

Kelly said he had been told by the health unit that five cases of primary syphilis have been reported in male homosexuals this months and the figure was considered “alarming.”

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