Yesterday morning – July 4 – as most of the country was ramping up for Independence Day festivities, I was web-surfing. [Yeah, I know; it's a sickness.] And I came upon some distressing news.
Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth
You can find a summary of major news reports by clicking on this Google News link. Or just search “Rainbow Lounge” + “Fort Worth” in your favorite news reader.
About 1 a.m. last Sunday (June 28) – almost 40 years to the hour of the Stonewall fight-back in New York City – Fort Worth police officers and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents crashed into a recently opened gay bar in Fort Worth, cracking heads, making dubious arrests, and justifying their actions with the claim that some bar patrons had “groped their groins.” [Yeah, right! Heterosexual hysteria is still a valid rationale for gay-bashing in this country.]
These officers had entered two other (straight) bars that evening, but they did no violence. What was the outcome of their raid of the gay bar?
According to the New York Times:
Chad Gibson, a 26-year-old computer technician from Euless, about 15 miles northeast of Fort Worth, suffered a concussion, a hairline fracture to his skull and internal bleeding after officers slammed his head into a wall and then into the floor, witnesses and family members said. Mr. Gibson was still hospitalized on Friday evening as doctors monitored a blood clot in his brain, his mother, Karen Carter, said.Further in the Times story: “So many questions have been raised about the police account that on Friday afternoon, Mayor Mike Moncrief asked the United States attorney for the Northern District of Texas, James T. Jacks, to review the Police Department’s investigation.”
Another patron suffered broken ribs, and a third had a broken thumb . . . .
At The Atlantic’s “Daily Dish,” Andrew Sullivan writes:
The police chief says that the violence of the cops was because - wait for it - the cops were hit on: "You're touched and advanced in certain ways by people inside the bar, that's offensive," he said. "I'm happy with the restraint used when they were contacted like that." This is simply incredible. Does anyone honestly believe that a bunch of cops entering a gay bar armed with plastic cuffs to check for drunkenness would be cruised and hit on by the customers? I mean: seriously. Only a pathological homophobe would think such a thing - and the police chief needs to withdraw this absurd statement, which is denied by all the eye-witnesses.Sullivan continues:
Gibson may die from his injuries or suffer permanent brain damage. Pray that he makes a full recovery which is still possible. He is 26 years old, and weighs 160 pounds. It took four or five officers to take him down because he allegedly groped them and yet he was never charged with assault.I am appalled that this was happening last weekend, while I was enjoying “Mass on the Grass” and the PrideFest parade with my fellow Episcopalians.
We should call this what it is: a violent, homophobic raid to persecute and physically assault gay men, with some witnesses saying that they targeted the smaller and more effeminate men. We need a full investigation and in the meantime the police chief and all those cops who launched this raid need to be suspended until this is cleared up. No police chief should remain in his position after offering the gay panic defense for brutal beatings by cops.
Want a couple more?
My friend Jane highlights this story on Facebook. She writes: ”July 4 is the anniversary of the murder of Arthur Carl ("J.R.") Warren, a 26 year old African American gay man who was dragged to death and murdered by two white men in WV on July 4, 2000. We know Matthew Shepard's name, but not J.R. Warren's.”
Read one account of that story here. This 26-year-old gay man sought counsel from his mother and his pastor. On Independence Day, 2000, he came across
two 17-year-old White boys who drove him to an abandoned home and began kicking and pummeling him until he was severly [sic] injured and bloodied. They then drove J.R. Warren, begging from the hatchback of the car to be taken home, to a deserted stretch of roadway and ran over his body with the car in an attempt to disguise his massive injuries as a hit-and-run. At dawn, along that roadway is where J.R. Warren's body was found. In their confession, one of the killers described being infuriated by mere rumors that he was having a relationship with Warren.Yep. “Gay panic disorder” again. The story continues:
An amazing police statement regarding the status of J.R. Warren Jr.'s murder as a hate crime was as follows: "In none of the statements that I received, noone that I've talked to thereafter has ever indicated to me that its cause was sexuality or the color of his skin. Until I receive that evidence, I can't very well say it was a hate crime."August Provost, U.S.N.
Just this week another African American gay man, Navy Seaman August Provost, a sailor, was beaten to death. The Washington Monthly reports he was “found dead in a Camp Pendleton guard shack on Wednesday. Initial reports indicated that Provost had complained to his family about someone "harassing and bothering" him, but the 29-year-old sailor was reportedly reluctant to talk to his superiors about this because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Read the story, with links.
Want to know one thing that ticks me off about the good ol’ U.S. of A.? It is this. Most Americans know the latest shenanigans about their Amerian Idol heroes. News of Michael Jackson’s death or Steve McNair’s tops the news. But what’s a few more queers murdered or beaten to death? It doesn’t even make the radar on our national consciousness.
The violence against gay men, lesbians, and transgendered people happens every day all over this country. Very few of those stories make the news. (I know that, having once been taken to the ER with knife wounds myself.) And very few people will speak for them.
Racism is still alive and well in our country. And queers are the last remaining group that it’s socially acceptable (in many quarters) to hate.
So … yeah … I am angry. I think this country has much promise. But it has not yet fulfilled its promises. Until it does, I will remain a wary patriot.