Last month’s raid on Rainbow Lounge in Ft. Worth, Texas, was nothing short of the police’s way of celebrating the 40th anniversary of Stonewall … by targeting a gay bar. It left one guy in the hospital, plenty of others harassed, and the police and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission playing the blame game with each other. But ya know what’s not going to solve anything? Storming a City Council meeting and demanding to be heard — when they were going to listen anyway.
Seven protesters from the group Queer LiberAction were kicked out of last night’s Ft. Worth City Council meeting as they shouted “Hear us now! Hear us now!” in an apparent demand to have the bar raid issued moved up to the top of the meeting’s agenda. City marshals removed them. As Mayor Mike Moncrief tried to speak, the group’s founder Blake Wilkinson interrupted, “We’re sick and tired of being put on the last of the list.”
Speakers representing Fairness Fort Worth, which formed after the June 28 raid on the Rainbow Lounge, a gay nightclub, were scheduled to speak before the council later in the meeting.
“Nobody is trying to put anybody last on the list for any reason,” [Mayor Mike Moncrief] insisted. “We have every intention of being here as long as you are. We’re not going anywhere. Neither is this staff. We’re here to listen to everyone who is here to speak to us.”
When Wilkinson kept interrupting, Moncrief gave him a choice of either staying and participating in the meeting or being forced to leave. When he did not quiet down, Moncrief ordered city marshals to remove him. Two marshals then escorted him out by the arm.
A second man was also escorted out of the chambers after repeatedly interrupting the meeting.
Some in the audience applauded the men’s removal.
At that same meeting, Mayor Moncrief apologized for the raid — to which the crowd applauded.
We get it: Local activists are pissed over the raid and want their voices heard. But there’s something called “decorum,” and without it there is no order — and no point to even holding a council meeting to let the community be heard. (If, after demanding Barack Obama listen to your concerns, he invites you to the White House, do you run through the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue demanding to speak before your turn?) In this instance, the protesters’ interruption of the meeting did nothing to further the cause; actually, they just made the gays look like whining complainers, rather than community leaders concerned about discrimination.
Especially when the mayor is agreeing to go balls out on this issue, calling for for the U.S. Attorney’s Office to conduct its own investigation.
Earlier Tuesday, in the pre-council meeting, Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead gave the council an update on his investigation of the incident, when officers with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and Fort Worth police department conducted an inspection at the Rainbow Lounge and made six arrests, injuring one patron.
The episode has galvanized Fort Worth’s gay community and grabbed national headlines.
Some key points from Halstead’s presentation:
— Internal affairs investigators have conducted interviews with 33 attendees at the Rainbow Lounge and expect to complete the investigation in about 30 days.
— The Fort Worth police department considers the investigation a priority, taking some internal affairs investigators off other cases to focus on the Rainbow Lounge incident, he said.
— Halstead expects to update the police department’s policy regarding bar raids, after taking input from the community.
“I don’t want a police officer to say, ‘I’ve never been in that bar. Let’s do an investigation,’” Halstead said.
Soon after the bar incident, Halstead said he decided he needed a police officer to serve as a liaison to the city’s gay/lesbian/bisexual community, just as the department has people serving in a similar position for other minority communities. Officer Sara Straten, a neighborhood officer in north Fort Worth and 17-year veteran of the department, volunteered for the position.
“I plan to work hard to heal the community as a whole, both the police department and the GLBT community,” Straten told the council.
Moncrief and council members praised Halstead, but said they still wanted the U.S. attorney’s office to review the police investigation.
“While June 28 was a difficult day, I’m pleased to hear that we are moving forward and not backward,” Moncrief told Halstead. “This city is an inclusive city. This is not an exclusive city.”
(Photo: Dallas Morning News)