Seven arrested in Texas gay bar ‘raid’
Men charged with ‘public intoxication’ on Stonewall’s 40th anniversary
Seven customers were arrested for public intoxication at a Fort Worth, Texas, gay bar shortly after midnight Sunday.
Angry gay activists said the incident mimicked the famous police raid on the Stonewall Inn gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village exactly 40 years earlier.
Fort Worth police released a statement saying they conducted a routine “alcohol beverage code inspection,” not a raid, at the Rainbow Lounge, a gay club that opened for business less than a month ago.
But at least three customers present during the appearance by police officers and Texas liquor commission agents told a CBS-affiliated TV news station that the officers and agents acted in an aggressive and rude manor toward the customers and began singling out people for arrest on public intoxication charges.
The police statement says at least two customers made “sexually explicit movements” toward two officers and a third customer grabbed the groin of an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission as the officers and agent walked through the club. The three customers were charged with public intoxication, as were four other customers who also were observed to be intoxicated, the police statement says.
“I can guarantee there wasn’t a man in this bar that would’ve touched one of those officers, knowing they were arresting people,” bar patron Chuck Potter told CBS 11 News.
“I’ve worked in gay bars in four different counties in Texas,” Rainbow Lounge bouncer Justin McCarty said in the CBS 11 News story. “I’ve never seen anything this aggressive.”
The owner of the Rainbow Lounge could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Dallas Morning News reported that several dozen people gathered outside the Tarrant County, Texas, courthouse Sunday afternoon to protest the arrests made at the Rainbow Lounge.
The paper reported that protesters called for an investigation into allegations that officers used excessive force while arresting the patrons. Witnesses also claimed that one patron was hospitalized after hitting his head at the time of his arrest, the paper reported.
“It was incredibly excessive and brutal,” bar patron and witness Todd Camp told the Morning News.
The Texas liquor law, which is posted on the web site of the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Commission, creates an offense of “public intoxication.”
The law says someone can be charged with this offense “if the person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger the person or another.”
The law defines a public place as any public space as well as “licensed or permitted premises,” such as a bar.
Fort Worth City Council member Joel Burns told protesters he has requested that the police and liquor commission conduct an investigation into the conduct of the police officers and liquor agents on whether the Rainbow Lounge was singled out for harsher treatment than other establishments.
“A thorough internal investigation into the allegations made is being conducted as all allegations against officers are investigated,” the police statement says.
It notes police made nine additional arrests on public intoxication charges at other bars on the same night the officers arrested patrons at the Rainbow Lounge.
According to the statement released Sunday, liquor commission agents visited the Rainbow Lounge on June 25 to inform the club that they were in the process of visiting several bars in the area to conduct routine inspections “as a continuing effort to educate and enforce over-serving alcohol to intoxicated individuals.”
The statement says that on June 27, “a person identifying himself as the owner of the Rainbow Lounge” called the local police station to ask if there was a problem with his club. The statement says a police sergeant advised the owner that routine visits were being conducted to several bars over the next few days.
“The owner advised the sergeant officers that they were welcome anytime to conduct an inspection of his establishment,” the statement says. “The sergeant advised the owner of the Rainbow Lounge that officers would return to the area this evening to continue inspections and would inspect his establishment.”
The statement says that when the officers arrived about 12:30 a.m. Sunday to begin their inspection, “an extremely intoxicated patron made sexually explicit movements toward the police supervisor. This individual was arrested for public intoxication,” the statement says.
“Another intoxicated individual also made sexually explicit movements towards another officer and he was arrested for public intoxication,” the statement says. “A third individual inside the lounge assaulted the [Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission] agent by grabbing the TABC agent’s groin,” the statement says. “He was escorted outside and arrested for public intoxication.”
It says a decision was made to release this person to “paramedics due to his extreme intoxicated state as he was repeatedly vomiting.”
Chad Cox, a bartender for another Fort Worth gay bar called Best Friends, said he was not aware of any complaints of police mistreatment of gay bar patrons in his club or in other gay establishments in Fort Worth.
He said he has worked as a bartender in mostly straight bars in Fort Worth over the past 20 years and has routinely observed public intoxication arrests.
“In Texas you can get a PI in a bar,” he said. “You can get a PI walking from a bar to your car. If the cops believe that you’re drunk, they can give it to you any time. That’s Texas.”
All I have to say is: ROUTINE MY ASS!
When did the police ever take a "paddy wagon" to any other routine instection? I'm sure this was some self-righteous religious zealot who wanted to make a statement! There are several members of the Ft Worth city council calling for an investigation, so I'm sure there will be more to come.