As a witness to the events following the Rainbow Lounge Raid, I have wondered what happened. My father worked in the police force for much of my life, and so I had that perspective as well as the perspective of a gay man. Several scenarios played out in my mind. I wanted my first contribution to the conversation here to be an exploration of some of those scenarios.
I think we all know the basic facts. The police came to Rainbow Lounge. While the police were at Rainbow Lounge, several patrons were arrested for public intoxication. One of those arrested, Chad Gibson, was injured and had to be taken to the hospital. Within those “basic” facts the real story exists.
Scenario 1: Saturday afternoon several police officers got in a mood to rough up somebody. The fags were always an easy target, especially in Fort Worth, which, at least in their minds, is still pretty much of a country town. It could have as easily been a group of Mexican-Americans or African-Americans, but fags were an easier target, as they usually shut up and remain invisible. So they planned to go to a local gay bar and rough up some of the queers, but, to cover it, they stopped by a couple of other bars first.
Scenario 2: The police were doing routine bar checks. They had stopped at two bars already and arrested a few people. They arrived at the gay bar with nothing specific planned. After entering the bar, they were attacked by some or all of the people in the bar, one of the police called for back-up and other officers entered the bar blazing, at which time several bar patrons were arrested for public intoxication, as well as police harassment. During the ensuing chaos a couple of the bar patrons are injured, one critically.
Scenario 3: The police were doing a routine bar check. They arrived at the bar and things were going very normally. Suddenly one of the policemen was touched in a way that he felt inappropriate, even sexual. He had never dealt with a gay person before and, whether the “touch” was intentional or not, he panicked and felt sexually vulnerable. He attacked the bar patron and began to rough him up. The officer called for help believing that he had reason to fear attacks from other bar patrons. The officers that entered didn’t know the situation and began to take control of the situation by arresting patrons and treating some of them roughly.
Scenario 4: Someone in either the leadership of FWPD or TABC decided that the fags needed to be taught a lesson and ordered his staff to rough up the gays and be sure they remember their place in the community. The police arrived with those orders and began to carry them out.
Scenario 5: The police arrive at the bar and find a patron so drunk he can’t stand up. While observing him, he falls down and hits his head. They arrest him for public intoxication, during which time he begins to vomit, which the officer attributes to his level of intoxication. Because he is ill and has injuries, they then turn him over to EMS so that he can be treated. During the same event they find several others that they suspect of public intoxication and arrest them also.
Scenario 6: The police arrived to do a routine bar check, the third of the night. Upon entering the bar they discovered several people who they considered intoxicated, so they began arresting them. During the arrests one of the patrons, not realizing what was going on, maybe even confused because he was just enjoying himself, questioned an officer about what was going on. The officer thinking he wasn’t being respectful enough attempted to physically push the patron, at which time the patron stumbled. The officer then grabbed the patron and shoved him to the ground, at which time he hit his head.
I could keep creating these scenarios in my head. I honestly don’t know which one happened. But from listening to the police defending themselves, and the witnesses to the events, I am really saddened and upset by the whole thing. This is an event that should never have happened for so many reasons.
The officers’ timing, on that national celebration of Stonewall, was completely inexplicable. The injury of Chad Gibson is totally over the top, considering we are simply talking about public intoxication at best, and not some out of control suspect, who was threatening the lives of others.
I have visited the bar since the event. It doesn’t seem like a place where riots would start. The patrons seem like pretty normal people to me. Those I have visited with confess confusion and anger at the events. Most of all, they also wonder what really happened. Not just the actual events, but what was going on in the minds of the police and the patrons.
It is important at this juncture for the LGBTQ community in DFW and around the world to not let anger or hysteria win out. We must use this moment to pressure the FWPD, TABC, State of Texas, and even the United States government to change themselves and the world we live in. It is terrible that Chad had to be injured and this event had to occur to bring about the kind of movement I have witnessed in the last few days. At the same time, the FWPD, city of Fort Worth, TABC, state of Texas, and United States needs to take a hard look at themselves and ask how they have contributed to the fear and pain that is so real in the gay community.
I hope this becomes a wake up call for our community. I let fear rule my life for too long. We have to stop the fear by stopping the hate and ignorance.
Marlin: You may remember Marlin from an earlier episode of Closet Talk. Now, he’s joining the jaysays.com team as our Ft. Worth correspondence and keeping us up to date on the bar raid. Since coming out of the closet, Marlin has worked to find ways to contribute to his new community and jaysays.com is happy to have him here working toward human rights.
Editor’s Note: I’m so thrilled to have Marlin on writing at jaysays.com. Marlin is a DFW resident and will be following the Rainbow Lounge raid and reporting back to us on the events as they unfold. Please give Marlin a big gay welcome!