Fort Worth Police Raid of Rainbow Lounge: An Update

Photo from RainbowLoungeRaid.com

Photo from RainbowLoungeRaid.com

For the past couple of weeks, local and national media outlets have been reporting about the incident that took place at the Rainbow Lounge on Sunday, June 28.

Customers of this LGBT bar in Fort Worth say police used excessive force in a raid that left one bar patron hospitalized. The raid happened to coincide with the 40th Anniversary of New York’s famed Stonewall Riots, which many cite as the event that kicked off the LGBT rights movement.

In a statement released by Fort Worth’s Police Department, law enforcement officials alleged “an extremely intoxicated person made sexually explicit movements toward the police supervisor… [and another] individual inside the lounge assaulted the [Texas Alcohol Board Commission] agent by grabbing the TABC agent’s groin” – a claim bar patrons and management dispute.

An article published in Fort Worth’s Star-Telegram quoted club patron Todd Camp, who rejected officers’ claims that patrons “assaulted” an officer:

No one was acting aggressive to officers. Usually, [raids] are very orderly and respectful – they work with the bar staff and check IDs, it’s quick and painless and then it’s over and then they’re out. This was not that. This was harassment, plain and simple.

Photo originally published in Dallas Voice

Photo originally published in Dallas Voice

Chad Gibson, a friend of Todd Camp, was hospitalized for a week after the raid with a skull fracture and a blood clot on his brain. Gibson may have to undergo surgery to remove the clot if doctors cannot treat it with medication.WFAA-TV, a local NBC affiliate, aired the first interview with Chad Gibson where he discussed his take on the incident.

The Dallas Voice spoke with Kristy Morgan about her brother’s condition:

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

Morgan also spoke with a Fort Worth TV station and rejected claims that Gibson elicited officers’ aggression:

for anyone to come back and say he did something to provoke this is ludicrous.

The LGBT blog Pam’s House Blend quotes an eyewitness who claims that police were specifically targeting effeminate men, though that assertion remains uncorroborated by other sources.

Photo originally published in Dallas Voice
Photo originally published in Dallas Voice

The Associated Press (AP) reported that openly gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns will call for an investigation into the raid. Mayor Pro Tem Kathleen Hicks is also asking that police officials investigate the incident.

GLAAD received a number of incident reports from our constituency. Some of these community members witnessed the incident at the Rainbow Lounge and shared their stories with us.

Alison, a straight ally, stated the following:

Statements made by the Ft. Worth Police are so far from the truth. The only conclusion I can draw is that not only was there police brutality, but also an attempt to cover up this violence. Law enforcement stated they were merely enforcing public intoxication laws, but I admitted to the police that I had a few drinks in my system before the arrests began.

She adds:

If they were not targeting any one group of people, why was a straight woman who admitted to being intoxicated left alone? And why were police assaulting and arresting gay men who didn't even show any signs of intoxication? I witnessed the assault on Chad who is currently in the ICU and many others firsthand, and at no point did I see any lewd behavior towards police or resisting arrest prior to any of the assaults.

Laurence, another eyewitness, was still in shock over the chain of events that took place at the Rainbow Lounge. He stated:

I didn't get what happened this past weekend at the Rainbow Lounge. I didn’t understand why the police officers lingered in this tiny 40ft x 40ft space if they were conducting a routine Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) inspection. I didn’t understand why the police harassed anyone who questioned their presence; I didn’t understand why they pulled patrons out of the club who weren’t visibly intoxicated. And I still don't get it.

Laurence continued:

It was as if a group of officers had taken it upon themselves to say, “You are NOT welcome in Fort Worth and we’re going to make sure you understand this through our actions!”

Photo originally published in Dallas Voice
Photo originally published in Dallas Voice

A 2005 report released by Amnesty International revealed that “police mistreatment and abuse of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people [is] widespread nationwide and [goes] largely unchecked due to underreporting and unclear, under-enforced or non-existent policies and procedures.”

The report specifically cites a San Antonio incident during which a transgender woman was harassed and sexually assaulted by local law enforcement officers.

Protests have already erupted in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metro region and have drawn hundreds of participants, all of whom are demanding answers. A Facebook page and a Rainbow Lounge Raid web page have been created to garner further awareness of the incident.

Additionally, Equality Texas has issued a Call to Action demanding an immediate investigation on the police raid. You can find their action alert here.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram reported in an article on July 4 that Mayor Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth has asked for a federal review of the Rainbow Lounge incident.

On Tuesday, July 7 Council Aide to Mayor Pro Tem & District 8 Representative Kathleen Hicks Mr. Guillermo (Will) S. Trevino, Esq. issued a statement declaring that Fort Worth Department Chief of Police, Jeffrey W. Halstead suspended all operations with the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission (TABC) to get a clearer understanding of the actions on June 28 and Alan Steen, an administrator of the TABC, has put two officers involved in the raid on desk duty.

Trevino declared:

As a measure to educate current and future Fort Worth Police officers, the chief will collaborate with the City of Fort Worth Human Resource department to ensure that up to date multiculturalism training will be provided to all police employees, specifically in consideration to the GLBT community.

Please stay tuned for more details. GLAAD has been collaborating with Equality Texas and Fairness Fort Worth to assure the coverage of the incident is fair, accurate and inclusive.

We will continue to monitor the media’s coverage of the Fort Worth police raid and assist the local groups with their media efforts.