Gay men have become the target of undercover sex stings in Washington DC’s Meridian Hill Park. Critics have likened the stings to pre-Stonewall raids.
Park Police officer Sgt. Eduardo Delgado reports that law enforcement has made 26 arrests since August 7. Charges have ranged from Disorderly Conduct to Lewd Acts, Unlawful Entry, and Simple Assault (Sexual). Complaints by park visitors about public sex initiated the police stings.
DC defense lawyer John Albanes characterizes the sting operation as disturbingly homophobic since it targets gay men who agree to consensual acts.
“I find this pattern extremely disturbing and reminiscent of the Stonewall days when gay men were often the target of police discrimination,” Albanes said in a statement. “The tactics used in these cases just fly in the face of proper police work and should be exposed. The officers are posing as willing participants in a consensual encounter between adults. The target is deceived into thinking that what he is about to do is wanted. This raises serious doubts about whether the government can prove criminal intent.”
Furthermore, critics of the attack note that Meridian Hill Park–which also has been dubbed Malcolm X Park–historically attracts African American men for cruising, adding an uncomfortable racial dynamic to the stings.
Amid the criticism, Sgt. Delgado has defended the police operation. “The U.S. Park Police receives complaints about lewd acts that occur within Meridian Hill,” Delgado said. “As with any other complaint of illegal activity, we then take actions to stop it. Plainclothes officers are just one method of enforcement sometimes used to deter, stop, and/or arrest violators within the parks.”