Texas Gay Bar Raid on Stonewall 40th Anniversary Brings Allegations of Police Misconduct

Note: This is a very long post. Please take the time to read it in its entirety. Kudos to blogger David Mailloux for being on top of this story all day.

Early this morning, 40 years (nearly to the minute) after the raid that sparked the Stonewall Riots, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission raided the recently opened Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth. By the time the Fort Worth police were done eighteen people were arrested, one man was hospitalized with a cracked skull, and witnesses were left in stunned disbelief.

According to the police report released to the Star-Telegraph:

While walking through the Rainbow Lounge, an “extremely intoxicated patron made sexually explicit movements toward the police supervisor,” the statement said. This individual was arrested for public intoxication.

Another intoxicated individual also made sexually explicit movements toward another officer, and he was arrested for public intoxication, the statement said. A third individual inside the lounge assaulted a TABC agent by grabbing the agent’s groin, according to the statement. He was escorted outside and arrested for public intoxication. He was released to paramedics because of his extreme intoxication as he was repeatedly vomiting, police reported.

While dealing with this suspect, another officer requested assistance from inside the club with an intoxicated patron who was resisting arrest. This person was placed on the ground to control and apprehend him, police reported.

Going just by the police account it doesn’t sound terribly unreasonable, though as Rainbow Lounge General Manager General manager Randy Norman said, “Officers just don’t come in armed with zip ties and a paddy wagon for a routine check of a bar.”

But let’s look at some witness accounts given to Dallas Voice reporters Tammye Nash, Arnold Wayne Jones, or left in the Instant Tea (the Dallas Voice’s official blog) comments section. I’ve attempted to place them in chronological order to tell the story.

(From commenter “A”) I don’t know what went down once the police got inside, I was lucky that I was leaving at the exact moment that the first agent was walking in the door, but they already had the outside door person up against the wall in cuffs, and the building surrounded with cars. It was like a scene in a movie. What century is Fort Worth living in? Being from Fort Worth, Im sad to say, that I’m not surprised that they raided the bar. I’m so glad that I don’t live in that city anymore.

Just talked to a girl named Alison. When it first started she went up to a cop and said thank you for coming out to keep us safe. This is a rough neighborhood. He said that’s not why we are here. She asked why they were there and he said a disgruntled employee had said that the bar was overserving people. She told him she had been drinking but that she had a designated driver. He told her that she was fine. She said they only arrested men and seemed to be targeting effeminate men.

(Did I mention that the Rainbow Lounge has only been open a week, and presumably wouldn’t have had time to get a disgruntled employee?)

(From Rainbow Lounge dancer “Shane” in the comments section) I was one of the dance entertainers last night at Rainbow Lounge. I was dancing on a box in the VIP lounge and was looking right at the first guy that was arrested. The male patron was standing at the bar doing nothing but having a having a drink and a fun time (like people do in bars) when an officer entered that section of the club and made a beeline straight towards him. The officer forcefully spun the man around, shoved him against the bar and placed plastic restraints on his wrists. The officer then marched the man out the club. The guy was stunned and obviously really scared.

(A witness identified as Kayla Lane, a Ph.D. student at UC-Santa Cruz) 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 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).

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.

Just got an e-mail from “Robert H” who said he was at the Rainbow Longe last night when the police arrived with “a paddy wagon … looking for touble.”

He said he and his friends were sitting on the patio and “nobody was being wild out there” when the police “came through with flashlights being loud” and “took one guy away.”

He said he left shortly thereafter and at the front door “numerous cops were there with plastic handcuffs all ready to go” and that “it wasn’t fire hazard crowded or seedy wild” in the bar.

He said friends called him later and that they were harassed in the bar and that the straight girl in their group “who was nowhere near drunk who got grabbed by the arm, but the worst part is they said they [the cops] had numerous people face down on the ground outside.”

(Back to Kayla Lane) These people were NOT drunk, or even overly happy or silly. As the last office came by, some patrons were calling out “Homophobes!,” “Fucking Assholes,” etc. – obviously and justifiably upset over the present actions. The officer, whose head was turned the other way, looked back and saw and recognized me as questioning the state policeman earlier, and yanked my arm, forcing me out of the bar in front of him.

After pulling my arm away once we were outside, I calmly told him it was not me that called him these names, but he aggressively insisted it was, no matter what I said. Then he accused me of stirring up trouble by talking to the policeman earlier. I said it was my right to question, as a concerned citizen, these actions. He responded that, “What we do, is right. You can’t question when we are doing something.” I said something about him not understanding a democracy then.

(From commenter “Tiffany”) I was really confused last night when suddenly, from all directions I see people being led out with zip ties on their hands looking very frightened. It seemed like the officers were provoking their victims as well. One man that had been arrested was standing on the side walk while an officer was being very aggressive and kept pushing the man around and trying to argue with him. The man finally asked him to stop touching him because he was just trying to stand still. It was really bizarre! None of the men that I saw arrested were visibly intoxicated and they all cooperated considering the way they were treated.

(Back to Shane) I was still standing near the entrance to the VIP lounge with a friend when an officer approached a man standing there. The man had water in his hand. The officer asked him how much he had had to drink and the man said that he didn’t have to answer that. The officer then said that he was going to arrest him for public intoxication. The man said,”You can’t do that I am just standing here right now drinking water.” At the time the officer shoved the man over towards the wall near the dressing room and then back to the rear wall near the men’s restroom, then down onto the floor. Several other officers, made their way back there to hold that ONE MAN down on the ground as they placed restraints on him. At the time I noticed that all of them did not have FWPD uniforms on. Some of them were actually State Police.

Finally, Kristy Morgan gives an update on her brother Chad Gibson, who suffered a head injury and was hospitalized after police threw him to the ground during the raid.

Kristy said the initial CAT scan performed earlier today showed little or no damage. However, a second CAT scan performed this afternoon showed that the bleeding in his brain had increased.

“We won’t know anything more until tomorrow when they do more tests,” she said.

Kristy said Chad has awake today, but that he has no memory of the incident in the bar and that his memor of events today have been spotty. She said he remembers her being there, but that he doesn’t remember talking to the doctor this morning, and he doesn’t remember visits by some of his friends during the day.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or what kind of bar you are in,” Kristy said, “none of this should have happened, to anybody. It’s excessive force, and it shouldn’t have happened.”

Of course, at this point these are all unproven allegations and blah blah blah, but as you can see, eight unrelated witnesses have painted a fairly consistent picture less than 24 hours after the raid. It would appear that the Texas state and local authorities will have some explaining to do in the coming days.

More on this story as it develops.

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10 thoughts on “Texas Gay Bar Raid on Stonewall 40th Anniversary Brings Allegations of Police Misconduct

  1. Hi Josh, I have been following this since you posted yesterday, I watched the 10 pm news 8 last night – Not impressed with the way they told the story. I do hope the real story gets out, and there is an investigation. I worked beind the bar for 10 years and I have never heard of TABC showing up for an inspection with the state police, zip ties and a paddy wagon (that's not an inspection that is a raid).

  2. Sorry about the Josh/Matt thing, I really did not realize I was posting on Asterisk. I thought I was responding to Josh who had sent me the story on Facebook. Anyway you did a great job getting the details of the story, this is the story people need to hear and read, not the wishy washy story on News 8. Great Job!!

  3. A friend of mine who was there at the Rainbow Lounge during the raid that night called me the next day and told me what had happened. As a wife of a peace officer for the State of Texas, I wish to remain anonymous. My husband's department is not affiliated with the Fort Worth Police Dept. That being said…I have read the first hand experiences from the patrons of the rainbow Lounge which is now in the location that used to Hot Shots. The stories describe individual police officers that used their authority in a way that was illegal and excessive under the color of law. These officers did not conduct their inspection in a professional manner. It is appallling that this raid took place on a very important anniversary for the Gay Rights movement. It is actually embarrassing to me that these officers were most likely not briefed about the importance of the date. These are my friends. As for the public intoxication rationale. There are certain physical clues that an officer looks for to determine if someone appears intoxicated as a danger to themselves or others. These officers did not take the time to assess the clues before rounding up people. A reporter from the Dallas Voice on a progressive radio show today stated that Chad Gibson was holding hands with another man and was walking to the bathroom when their ahnds were seperated by force and he was forced against a wall. His shoes made it hard for the officers to spread his legs apart and they forced him to the ground where he lost consciousness. Chad Gibson is now in a hospital suffering from hemmoraging in his brain. He was not combatant, he was not resisting.Other accounts state that the officers started pushing men on top of pool tables, pulling people outside and binding their hands with plastic zipties. I have several questions and points to make:1. If two other bars were also “inspected” that night, where are their strories of being restrained and detianed? If the same thing happen to them even if it was a moslty heterosexual bar, there would still be upset people. 2. Is there anyone that believes a patron made sexual advances to a fully uniformed police officer during all this chaos? I think it is a ploy to get sympathy from ignorant and homophobic people that still exist in this metroplex. 3. Do the officers truly believe it is “our word against theirs” with upstanding individuals there such as Todd Camp.4. I am proud of my city for banding together and showing support. I am proud that Joel Burns was productively reactive to this sad situation.5. Whether it was an intentional raid on a “gay bar” or the officers decided to take their authority too far once they entered, I believe it was discriminatory and a hate crime and the officers should be thoroughly prosecuted. I expect justice.

  4. A friend of mine who was there at the Rainbow Lounge during the raid that night called me the next day and told me what had happened. As a wife of a peace officer for the State of Texas, I wish to remain anonymous. My husband's department is not affiliated with the Fort Worth Police Dept. That being said…I have read the first hand experiences from the patrons of the rainbow Lounge which is now in the location that used to Hot Shots. The stories describe individual police officers that used their authority in a way that was illegal and excessive under the color of law. These officers did not conduct their inspection in a professional manner. It is appallling that this raid took place on a very important anniversary for the Gay Rights movement. It is actually embarrassing to me that these officers were most likely not briefed about the importance of the date. These are my friends. As for the public intoxication rationale. There are certain physical clues that an officer looks for to determine if someone appears intoxicated as a danger to themselves or others. These officers did not take the time to assess the clues before rounding up people. A reporter from the Dallas Voice on a progressive radio show today stated that Chad Gibson was holding hands with another man and was walking to the bathroom when their ahnds were seperated by force and he was forced against a wall. His shoes made it hard for the officers to spread his legs apart and they forced him to the ground where he lost consciousness. Chad Gibson is now in a hospital suffering from hemmoraging in his brain. He was not combatant, he was not resisting.Other accounts state that the officers started pushing men on top of pool tables, pulling people outside and binding their hands with plastic zipties. I have several questions and points to make:1. If two other bars were also “inspected” that night, where are their strories of being restrained and detianed? If the same thing happen to them even if it was a moslty heterosexual bar, there would still be upset people. 2. Is there anyone that believes a patron made sexual advances to a fully uniformed police officer during all this chaos? I think it is a ploy to get sympathy from ignorant and homophobic people that still exist in this metroplex. 3. Do the officers truly believe it is “our word against theirs” with upstanding individuals there such as Todd Camp.4. I am proud of my city for banding together and showing support. I am proud that Joel Burns was productively reactive to this sad situation.5. Whether it was an intentional raid on a “gay bar” or the officers decided to take their authority too far once they entered, I believe it was discriminatory and a hate crime and the officers should be thoroughly prosecuted. I expect justice.

  5. A friend of mine who was there at the Rainbow Lounge during the raid that night called me the next day and told me what had happened. As a wife of a peace officer for the State of Texas, I wish to remain anonymous. My husband's department is not affiliated with the Fort Worth Police Dept. That being said…I have read the first hand experiences from the patrons of the rainbow Lounge which is now in the location that used to Hot Shots. The stories describe individual police officers that used their authority in a way that was illegal and excessive under the color of law. These officers did not conduct their inspection in a professional manner. It is appallling that this raid took place on a very important anniversary for the Gay Rights movement. It is actually embarrassing to me that these officers were most likely not briefed about the importance of the date. These are my friends. As for the public intoxication rationale. There are certain physical clues that an officer looks for to determine if someone appears intoxicated as a danger to themselves or others. These officers did not take the time to assess the clues before rounding up people. A reporter from the Dallas Voice on a progressive radio show today stated that Chad Gibson was holding hands with another man and was walking to the bathroom when their ahnds were seperated by force and he was forced against a wall. His shoes made it hard for the officers to spread his legs apart and they forced him to the ground where he lost consciousness. Chad Gibson is now in a hospital suffering from hemmoraging in his brain. He was not combatant, he was not resisting.Other accounts state that the officers started pushing men on top of pool tables, pulling people outside and binding their hands with plastic zipties. I have several questions and points to make:1. If two other bars were also “inspected” that night, where are their strories of being restrained and detianed? If the same thing happen to them even if it was a moslty heterosexual bar, there would still be upset people. 2. Is there anyone that believes a patron made sexual advances to a fully uniformed police officer during all this chaos? I think it is a ploy to get sympathy from ignorant and homophobic people that still exist in this metroplex. 3. Do the officers truly believe it is “our word against theirs” with upstanding individuals there such as Todd Camp.4. I am proud of my city for banding together and showing support. I am proud that Joel Burns was productively reactive to this sad situation.5. Whether it was an intentional raid on a “gay bar” or the officers decided to take their authority too far once they entered, I believe it was discriminatory and a hate crime and the officers should be thoroughly prosecuted. I expect justice.

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