Gays, lesbians rally in Fort Worth over bar raid

By Tammye Nash Senior Editor

Police say 7 arrested for public intoxication; one man remains hospitalized with brain injury incurred during incident


Between 150 and 200 people gathered on the steps of the Tarrant County Courthouse Sunday, June 28 — the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion — to protest a police raid on a Fort Worth gay bar, The Rainbow Lounge, at about 1 a.m. that day. Gay Fort Worth City Councilmember Joel Burns told the protesters he has called on Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead to conduct a thorough investigation into allegations of harassment and police brutality against bar patrons during the raid. One man remains hospitalized with a brain injury after, witnesses said, several officers threw him to the ground while arresting him. TAMMYE NASH/Dallas Voice

FORT WORTH — About 18 hours after officers with the Fort Worth Police Department and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission raided a Fort Worth gay bar, about 150 to 200 people gathered on the steps of the Tarrant County Courthouse in downtown Fort Worth Sunday night, June 28, to protest the raid.

Sources have said that seven people were arrested in the raid although witnesses at the scene said many more people were handcuffed with zip ties and taken out of the bar.
One man, identified by his sister as Chad Gibson, was in the intensive care unit at Fort Worth’s JPS Hospital with bleeding in his brain after officers threw him to the ground and used zip-ties to handcuff him.

The raid happened on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion.

Joel Burns, Fort Worth’s first and only openly gay City Council member, was in Houston for the weekend, but came back to Fort Worth in time for the rally at the courthouse.

"We want all citizens of Texas and Fort Worth to know and be assured that the laws of ordinances of our great state and city will be applied fairly, equally and without malice or selective enforcement," Burns said at the rally, reading from a prepared statement.

"We consider this to be part of ‘The Fort Worth Way’ here. As elected representatives of the city of Fort Worth, we are calling for an immediate and thorough investigation of the actions of the city of Fort Worth police and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission in relation to the incident at the Rainbow Lounge earlier this morning," Burns said.

In an e-mail communication before noon on Sunday, Burns said he had already talked with Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead who had promised an investigation into the matter. Burns also said at that time that Mayor Pro Tem Kathleen Hicks, who represents the district where the Rainbow Lounge is located, and City Manager Dale A. Fisseler were also already aware of the situation.

Noting that the rainbow Lounge raid came on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, Burns said at the rally, "Unlike 40 years ago, though, the people of this community have elective representation that will make sure our government is accountable and that the rights of all its citizens are protected."

Burns said he is working with Mayor Mike Moncrief, Halstead, the Fort Worth Human Relations Commission and "our state legislative colleagues" to get "a complete and accurate accounting of what occurred."

Burns added, "Rest assured that neither the people of Fort Worth, nor the city government of Fort Worth, will tolerate discrimination against any of its citizens. And known that the GLBT community is an integral part of the economic and cultural life of Fort Worth.

"Every Fort Worth citizen deserves to have questions around this incident answered and we are all working aggressively toward that end," Burns said.

Lisa Thomas, Burns’ appointee to the city’s Human Relations Commission, also spoke at the rally, as did Todd Camp and Chuck Potter, two men who were at the bar when the raid happened and who were the primary organizers of Sunday’s two rallies.

Camp, referring to eyewitness accounts of the raid and to photographs that Potter took as the raid was occurring, said at the rally that "evidence demonstrates that the Fort Worth Police Department and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commissioner over-reacted and used excessive, perhaps brutal force … ."

"The circumstances of the police action strongly suggest that elements of the law enforcement community selectively targeted a recently opened gay and lesbian establishment for selective enforcement and harassment."

Fort Worth police have not returned calls seeking comment placed by Dallas Voice beginning at 10 a.m. Sunday morning. However, Fort Worth police released a statement to several mainstream media outlets saying that Rainbow Lounge was one of three bars targted by six Fort Worth police officers and two TABC agents and a supervisor.

The statement said that nine people were arrested at the first two bars — the Rosedale Saloon and Cowboy Palace, both on Rosedale Avenue — and that another seven people were arrested at Rainbow Lounge.

The statement also said that "an extremely intoxicated patron made sexually explicit movements toward the police supervisor" and that person was arrested for public intoxication.

A second "intoxicated individual" was arrested for public intoxication after making "sexually explicit movements towards another officer," and a third person assaulted a TABC agent by grabbing his groin. That man was escorted outside and arrested for public intoxication, but was released to paramedics because of his "extreme intoxication" and the fact that he was vomiting repeatedly.

The statement said that while some officers were outside dealing with the vomiting suspect, another officer inside requested assistance in handling an intoxicated patron who was resisting arrest, and that this person was "placed on the ground to control and apprehend him."

This person was apparently Chad Gibson, who was knocked unconscious and is now hospitalized with a brain injury.

Eyewitnesses to that incident said Gibson, who is "maybe 160 pounds soaking wet," did not resist arrest but that he did stumble after the first officer grabbed his arm.

Rainbow Lounge owner J.R. Schrock said claims that patrons made sexual advances to the officers and that one patron groped an officer were lies.

"The groping of the police officer — really? We’re gay, but we’re not dumb," Schrock said to the crowd that gathered at the bar Sunday afternoon. "That is a lie, and I am appalled by it.

"They treat us like outcasts. But even outcasts have a time to shine, and this is it," Schrock said, pledging that he would not be "scared away" or intimidated into closing his bar.

E-mail nash@dallasvoice.com

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