Outrage over Fort Worth gay bar raid grows
The controversial raid at a Fort Worth gay bar late last month continues to galvanize LGBT activists throughout the Metroplex.
Queer Liberaction and other groups plan to hold what they described as a Rainbow Lounge Rally outside the Tarrant County Courthouse on Saturday, July 12, at 7 p.m. This protest is one of several that have taken place since members of the Fort Worth Police Department and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission arrested seven patrons and questioned 20 others during the June 28 raid.
"We want to bring together some speakers form Fort Worth and hear people’s accounts of that evening - because the accounts the police were giving early on were that they entered into some lascivious drunken gay bar," Blake Wilkinson of Queer Liberaction said. "It’s important that those who were there let their voices be heard publicly. Everybody I’ve talked to who was there is pretty much in agreement that it was a clear cut case of police brutality and intimidation. The only story we have contrary to that is the police story."
Wilkinson added he hopes the rally will also serve as a forum to "renew our demands; an external investigation is important." Doctor Stephen V. Sprinkle, associate professor of practical theology at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University; the Rev. Carol West of Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth and Chuck Potter, who was inside the Rainbow Lounge during the raid, are among those scheduled to speak.
Potter was on the dance floor holding a cup of ice when police entered the bar.
"A friend came up and said you may not want to have that on the dance floor, because they’re arresting people, saying they’re intoxicated," he told EDGE.
According to Potter, the police "coming into a bar is not uncommon; but this was different."
"It was a larger amount of police than usual and they were arresting people," he continued. "Normally, they just turn the music down and ask the patrons for their ID."
Potter added he saw a young man pinned up against the wall. He said police had the man in a choke hold.
"I honestly thought they were going to break his neck. When they let him off the wall, he began to stumble," he said. "When he stumbled, they tackled him to the ground. At that point I took a picture of them on top of him."
Wilkinson said the man Potter saw was Chad Gibson, who was hospitalized until last Saturday. His doctors maintain Gibson continues to experience severe headaches. And will have further complications for year.
"They targeted the bar because they don’t want it here," Potter said. "They can’t legally shut it down, so they are trying to scare the patrons off. They accomplished that. Shortly after they came in, almost half the people left."
Potter further noted the two other bars Fort Worth police and TABC officers targeted that night were straight Latino establishments. He also pointed out the raid took place on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
"I could not believe that on the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, that they were in there using excessive force and intentionally arresting people whether they needed to be arrested or not," Potter said. "The bar had only been open for a week, but there had been police presence there almost every night. They were either in the bar or in the parking lot watching."
The incident has left a lasting impact on Potter.
"I have a right to be safe, and feel safe; to not only know they are not going to harass me, but that I am going to be protected," he said as he noted what he described as a lack of response to combat attacks against gay men leaving local bars."We’ve not seen any increase in police presence unless it’s to come in and harass us."