Fort Worth bar raid report sparks further controversy, protests
More than four months after the Fort Worth Police Department raided the Rainbow Lounge, Chief Jeffrey Halstead announced at a press conference held outside the bar on Nov. 5 disciplinary actions for the three officers directly involved. And he revealed the results of two internal investigations that concluded officers did not use excessive force.
The lack of accountability within the two reports - plus the light disciplinary actions for only three officers - drew sharp criticism from local activists.
Jonathan Nelson, a spokesperson for Fairness Fort Worth, repeatedly stressed to EDGE his group’s belief local activists and the FWPD are "working together to move forward after this incident." Nonetheless, he criticized the reports’ findings and the unexpectedly light disciplinary actions.
"If you listen to what the Chief of Police said before he read the disciplinary measures, his comparison of what happened at the Rainbow Lounge to what happened 40 years before then at Stonewall, one would have expected that the discipline would have been greater than it was," Nelson said.
Blake Wilkinson of Queer LiberAction further described the department’s disciplinary actions as "a slap on the wrist" and even "a slap in the face."
The Dallas Voice reported on Nov. 5 Halstead noted the department had cleared five of the seven officers who raided the Rainbow Lounge of all charges. One officer the paper identified as Sgt. Morris, a 32-year-veteran who supervised the officers during the raid, received a one day suspension. Halstead also reiterated to the Dallas Voice his belief officers involved in the Rainbow Lounge raid did not use excessive force.
"Chief Halstead made himself clear that the FWPD deserves very little of the responsibility for the intimidation, violence and harassment used against the LGBT community during the bar raid," Queer LiberAction maintained in a press release. "If the FWPD wants to be a diverse and inclusive force then Chief Halstead should send a strong message that this type of homophobic treatment against the LGBT community will not be tolerated."
Queer LiberAction went on to demand the temporary LGBT liaison position filled by Sara Straten become a full time publicly funded position; any official agency found responsible for the injuries Rainbow Lounge patron Chad Gibson suffered during the raid be paid; the FWPD terminate those officers involved; mandated diversity and sensitivity training for city and FWPD employees and Mayor Michael Moncrief reinstate an apology for comments he made during a City Council meeting in July.
Queer LiberAction will once again make these demands at a protest tonight outside Fort Worth City Hall. Members will then attend a City Council meeting at which the newly formed Mayor’s Diversity Task Force will make its recommendations public.
Joe Remsik, Fort Worth leader of Queer LiberAction, remains optimistic Straten will continue to work with local activists to address their ongoing concerns about the raid and its fallout.
"Her biggest concern in our conversation is that a bridge continues to be built," Remsik said. "She wants us to be able to sit down and communicate."
Remsik further argued he feels action must follow those good intentions.
"She believes very strongly in the report and feels it’s very honest, feels that Chief Halstead has been honest and forthright to the GLBT community," he said. "It’s insulting to me to know that our voice is so aligned with Halstead. It speaks to me the feat of having your own mind and voice when it comes to this Rainbow Lounge incident. I don’t’ feel things are going to get any better."