Raid of the Rainbow Lounge (2012) - full transcript
A full length documentary film recounting the events surrounding the widely publicized and controversial raid of a Fort Worth, Texas gay bar in 2009. Following a sordid aftermath, Fort Worth would become a leader in LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) equality. However, that journey was not smooth and without controversies. Witness history unfold as this film documents that journey from the perspective of eyewitnesses, activists and politicians who helped change the city. Narrated by television icon and Emmy nominated actress, Meredith Baxter.
Live in Fort Worth...
[Newscaster] What witnesses describe as
a raid on a predominantly gay bar...
[Newscaster] ...Multiple arrests
and injuries are reported.
We were in a dangerous situation.
It felt like I was in a
movie out of a nightmare.
I couldn’t believe it! No one could
believe it. We were just petrified.
I don’t know what’s going
on, but this is not good.
And there were people in just huddles,
and they’re crying.
Lots of confusion on what was going on.
They had cop cars swarmed
up on the building.
I thought, maybe they’re just gonna, you
know, arrest everybody in here for something.
They zip-tied my hands so tight, I
had red marks and bruises.
The officer put his leg out, and
threw Chad to the floor, face first.
It was chaos.
I've never been so scared
in my entire life.
There was just this general sense of panic.
I was thinking, this guy’s
fixin' to get killed.
I will probably never forget about it.
I can’t believe this
happened in Fort Worth!
We can’t be quiet.
We will not be treated this way.
It has to stop.
Fort Worth, Texas: The fifth largest city in
the state, and 16th largest in the country.
It's "Where the West Begins".
Thirty miles west of Dallas, Fort Worth was
established as a protective army post in 1849,
but its location on the
legendary Chisholm Trail
established the city as a thriving
trading and cattle center,
earning it the nickname “Cowtown”.
Today, Fort Worth still embodies
this Spirit of the Old West
and it’s visible from
the historic Stockyards
to the vibrant downtown entertainment
district, Sundance Square.
And with some of the most prestigious museums and
contemporary performing arts venues in the world,
Fort Worth’s mix of cowboys and culture
helps distinguish it as one of
"America’s Most Livable Communities".
But just a few minutes away from
the liveliness of Sundance Square
is an isolated neighborhood largely
made up of abandoned homes,
and boarded up store fronts.
This Southside neighborhood is the home to a
handful of nightclubs that cater to minorities,
including the lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender community.
The Fort Worth LGBT community shares a
history of highs and lows with the city,
dating back to the early 1970s,
and continuing through the decade as the anti-gay
movement gained popularity across the nation.
But through it all,
a gay community slowly and sporadically
emerged in Fort Worth,
including a gay pride celebration,
and the founding of one of the largest
LGBT churches in the nation.
In 2000, after several failed attempts,
the city voted to make sexual orientation a protected
class under the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance.
In 2007, Fort Worth elected its first
openly gay city councilman, Joel Burns,
and the following year
it elected the first openly gay man
to the Fort Worth school board.
Regardless of the political strides,
many in the Fort Worth LGBT community felt
the need to remain in the closet,
influenced by the city’s small town
feel and bible belt values.
Unlike many major cities,
opportunities to live out and proud
as gays and lesbians remained scarce.
Residents would often
escape to nearby Dallas,
which has a large gay community
and thriving gayborhood;
a stark contrast to Fort Worth
where the community had become stagnant.
[Quiet street. Birds chirping]
But a change was about to come.
The grand opening of a large,
trendy gay nightclub in Fort Worth
was met with great
excitement and anticipation.
THIS is what the community
had been missing.
The Rainbow Lounge had successfully
rejuvenated the gay community in Fort Worth
and the future seemed promising.
However, the staff and patrons
of the Rainbow Lounge,
the LGBT community
and the city of Fort Worth were not prepared
for what the future was about to bring.
It was the second weekend
of the bar being open.
It was a great crowd,
everybody was having fun.
I was on the dance floor, having
a good time, dancing, enjoying myself.
Uh, but the mood changed
kind of all of the sudden.
I thought I caught a glimpse
of a police officer,
wasn’t sure, but I kept dancing.
And uh, I felt a commotion.
Heard some noise.
The crowd started thinning
out, pretty quickly,
and I remember thinking, ya know...
what’s going on?
I was standing in line,
at the VIP lounge bar,
and I was kind of roughly shoved aside,
by what I later learned
to be a TABC officer.
It was a man in a, in a...
state police, tan shirt,
and he grabbed the guy in front of me, grabbed
him by the shoulder, turned him around,
told him that he was drunk,
and then spun him around, put him in zip tie
handcuffs, and then dragged him off, in front of me!
And as they left the VIP
area and went down the step,
I noticed there were three other officers
with another young man, zip tied.
And I watched them shove their way through
the crowd and take these two young men out.
And then I looked out across the
bar, and saw other cops coming in,
and that’s when I decided that
I was gonna get out of there.
Like, I didn’t wanna...
I didn’t wanna stick around cuz I,
I thought, maybe they’re just gonna
you know, arrest everybody
in here for something.
Then they were taking someone out,
and then they were taking
another person out,
And they were slowly taking people out.
The thing that struck me
almost instantly was,
these guys seemed like
they were just pissed off.
I mean, they were angry.
You would think that almost they
had had a really bad night,
and this was going to be the end of it
and they were gonna take
out all their aggressions,
right here, on this group of people.
You could tell that they had come
from some type of... Something,
cuz their adrenaline was goin’,
they had that body posture,
and the head high...
There was something that was there!
I was standing outside on the patio
at the back part of the patio,
where they entered through the side alley,
and I was the furthest
away towards the back bar.
Two officers in dark uniforms
came out with flashlights,
shining them in everybody’s faces,
and stated, "what’s going on out here?"
We, we all just went silent at that point,
you could hear, uh, you could hear the
music from inside the bar through that wall,
and that was about the only noise
that was out there other than them
basically hollerin’ at everybody
as they’re going up with their
flashlights up in everybody’s face.
Everyone was quiet.
And um... We all were just
looking at each other,
And the officer said...
The same officer...
"Wow, y-y’all are being very quiet."
And the way that he said it was uh, like,
"y’all people are being very quiet",
like it wasn’t normal for us to be quiet.
And... me, I spoke up and I said
"That’s because we’re all of age, officer".
And he immediately turned around, flashed
the flashlight in my face, and said,
"Come with me, boy."
And that’s when that officer basically spun
him around, told him to put down his drink...
I turned around,
I was inches-my face was inches
away from the brick wall,
and he zip tied me
and told me I was under arrest
for public intoxication.
After that, they escorted
him back into the building.
Everybody basically was trying to figure
out what was going on at the time.
He kept pushing me, through the bar
like a bulldozer,
because the bar was in chaos,
because the officers were already
in there, doing their thing.
They came in with zip ties like, in
their back, like, their belt,
like this was... they were anticipating
arresting a lot of people.
One minute, everything is great, and fine.
The next minute, there are police everywhere,
all over the bar,
and people are just being
grabbed, and taken out.
I had red marks, and
bruises all around here,
especially on the joints and
on the bones, right here,
where it rubbed off from the
plastic of the zip ties.
Whenever the police officer saw that I was
having trouble getting into the van,
he pushed me,
I fell down onto my...
You know, my hands were
tied behind my back,
I fell back on, to basically my wrists.
He obviously didn’t care
about my pain or well-being.
I looked out the port window,
which was to my left,
and I saw my nephew, and he was talking
to one of the police officers.
My nephew works for the Fort
Worth Police Department.
The police officer opened up the door,
asked me to step out,
shut the door
and he cut me loose.
I had no idea, at all,
that my partner's nephew was going to
quote, unquote, "Get me out of trouble".
The longer it went, the more
people that got randomly...
it appeared to me, randomly arrested,
people became afraid.
And I remember, just, looking around,
and there was just people in huddles
and they’re crying,
with their little groups
that they came with
and people are just bawling.
It was a lot of fear.
It was terrible.
You were angry, you were
sad, you were confused.
I think everybody was probably like me,
they just could not figure out
what they were doing there,
what was happening,
what any of us had done wrong.
I was just so scared that one of my
friends was going to get hurt,
or that I was going to be hurt.
I tried to be invisible,
as much as I could.
I was just trying to stay out of their way.
For whatever reason they were in there for,
I just wanted to stay out of their way.
There was a young Hispanic man,
walking my direction as well.
The officer walked straight up behind him,
tapped him on the shoulder...
He flashed a peace sign.
They asked him how much he’d had to drink,
he shook a water bottle...
He said, you’re under arrest
for public intoxication.
At that point, he was tackled
and thrown through a door,
He came out of the door, confused, dazed, I guess
as anybody would be if you were just, you know,
thrown to the ground through a door,
And then was tackled to the
floor by, I wanna say...
Then we went into a state
of panic and fear.
We just looked at each other
like, "did that really happen"?
Then it became something
totally out of control.
They had a young man pinned up against
the wall, facing the wall.
One of the police officers
had him in a choke hold,
was pulling his neck back,
kind of with his forearm,
and so far back that I thought
they were going to break his neck.
I thought, "they're hurting this guy".
After they got him... his hands
detained behind his back,
they let him up off the wall,
and as he began to stand
up on his own feet,
he kind of stumbled a little bit,
and when he did, they tackled him...
took him to the ground,
They hit him with such force
to take him to the ground
that he lunged forward at
least for 3 or 4, or 5 feet.
And I couldn’t see because,
standing where I was, I
couldn’t see what his head hit,
or anything... see him hit the ground,
I saw him go to the ground,
and knew that if you don’t have hands to
protect yourself, you’re gonna go head first,
and he went head first into the ground,
and then they were on top of him.
But they were all jumping on his limp body
with their knees and elbows
in the back of his neck.
I had actually never seen violence
like that, in person before,
and it really scared me.
I was so mad at the time, but the only thing I could
think of is that no one is going to believe this,
no one is going to believe
what’s going on right here.
And so I pulled my camera out,
I have a small, iddy bitty camera,
pulled it out and snapped a picture.
I mean people were just scrambling,
everybody was just, at this point,
everybody was freaking out.
We were afraid, I mean, are they going
to attack more people?
Are they going to target more people?
I was now in fear.
And I didn’t just leave the bar, and
abandon my professional duties,
And I fled in fear.
Officers ultimately arrested 6 patrons during
their 40 minutes at the Rainbow Lounge.
All were cited for public intoxication.
Five were placed into either patrol cars or a
transport wagon and taken to the Tarrant County Jail.
And twenty-six year old, Chad Gibson,
was rushed to the I.C.U., with abrasions,
multiple skull fractures,
and bleeding on brain.
By the time I got home,
at about three o’clock in the
morning, I was so upset.
And I’m like, I just
started texting people.
You would not believe what happened.
They raided the bar that I was at.
And then I
did that until about six
o’clock in the morning,
and went to sleep.
I did what the eighteen year
journalist in me would do,
I picked up my phone and
began calling media people.
So I called just about everyone I
knew at the Fort Worth Star Telegram,
I called Joel Burns,
who is a long time friend of mine
and our new openly gay city council person.
At ten thirty, my phone
started blowing up again,
and people that were finally getting up for the morning and reading
my texts were calling me, wanting to know what was going on.
And as I talked to different people,
I knew I wanted to do something.
I didn’t want it just to be,
oh lets, you know, let’s try
to find out what happened,
and then see if we can
work this out or whatever.
We need to do something.
We need to do something today.
I began hearing from people involved
with Stonewall Democrats and who were
politicos in town:
both with liberal politics and gay politics
and we began talking
immediately about a protest.
And simultaneously, in Dallas,
the Million Gay March was going on.
The word there was,
I mean, it was all over the march.
Y’all need to know, the Rainbow Lounge
has been open one week
and they have already raided it!
I think since Fort Worth is
always coming to our aid
and our support,
that we kind of have a
chance to return the favor.
How many people here are
going to Fort Worth
at 5 o’clock to the Rainbow Lounge,
and at 7 o’clock to the Courthouse,
and show people how pissed off we are.
[crowd cheers and applause]
And of course, our community is just
a little bit hot under the collar,
as I think we should be.
The raid of the Rainbow Lounge had
occurred on a very significant day:
the landmark 40th anniversary of
the raid of the Stonewall Inn,
a popular gay bar in New York City
and the parallels were haunting.
According to eyewitnesses,
New York police also entered the
Stonewall Inn aggressively,
harassed and intimidated customers.
Confusion spread quickly
and fearful patrons ran for the exits.
Those arrested, were escorted out of
the bar and piled into patrol wagons.
While it was common for state and
local governments to raid gay bars,
this raid did not go as planned
and it escalated to violence
and six days of riots.
The Stonewall Rebellion marked a
defining moment in American history
when members of the LGBT community
fought back against oppression
and is observed as the launch of
the modern gay rights movements.
[Crowd chants: "Out of the
closets, into the streets!"]
But 40 years later,
history appeared to repeat itself in Texas
with the joint operation between
the Fort Worth Police Department
and the Texas Alcoholic
TABC agents are all commissioned police
officers with state wide jurisdiction.
They routinely join local law enforcement
officers to inspect licensed locations
and investigate alleged
violations of state laws
with service, courtesy,
integrity and accountability.
However, many who were at the
Rainbow Lounge that night,
felt the agents approach resembled
aggression, harassment and intimidation.
People from across the
Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex
would soon assemble at the Rainbow
Lounge to show their support.
The once quiet gay community was fired up
and determined not to let the police actions
from the night before go unchallenged.
I felt like I was in a
movie out of a nightmare.
It was, it was...
I’ve never seen anything like it and
I hope I never see anything like it again.
It was horrible.
They came out with a TABC car,
and then I went to go
open the door for them,
and they told me, get
my ass back over here,
and shoved me up against the wall,
and searched me, and told me
to stay there and don’t move.
The police did what they wanted!
They came in here and they
wanted people to leave,
and people left, and that’s ridiculous!
We have to stop this madness
or it will continue to grow
and fester in our community!
This doesn’t have to happen today,
I can’t believe it has, and we’re going to
do our best to not let it happen again.
Are we angry about this?
[Crowd yells: "YEAH!"]
How about joining in with a
chant, let's make some noise!
It was on the anniversary of the
Stonewall Rebellion for God’s sakes!
[Chanting] Hey hey! Ho ho!
Homophobia has got to go!
Hey hey! Ho ho! Homophobia has got to go!
Hey hey! Ho ho! Homophobia has got to go!
I am a pissed off homosexual!
I grew up in this city.
And I am just as much a
citizen of this city,
this state, and these
United States, as anyone!
The actions conducted last
night are inexcusable,
and we want to know why!
We want to know, who ordered this raid?!
And we don’t want to wait!
[Crowd chants: "Follow thorough!
Selective discriminatory enforcement designed
to harass and denigrate GLBT citizens
is not going to be tolerated in Fort Worth.
We have got to demand that the mayor
and city issues an apology
for this brutality that has taken
place against our community.
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 the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
We are working together with the mayor, the police
chief, the City of Fort Worth Human Rights Commission,
and our state legislative colleagues to get a
complete and accurate accounting for what occurred.
Rest assured, that neither
the people of Fort Worth
nor the government of
the City of Fort Worth
will tolerate discrimination
against any of its citizens.
Was the Rainbow Lounge targeted
because it was a gay bar?
Was it intentionally timed to coincide with the
anniversary of the raid of the Stonewall Inn?
Was the use of force meant to send
a message to the LGBT community?
For many, it all boiled down
to one simple question:
In a press release,
the Fort Worth Police Department would
describe the event at the Rainbow Lounge
as one of three scheduled bar
inspections conducted that night.
The statement would accuse multiple patrons of
making sexually explicit movements towards officers.
It accused a customer, who was
later identified as Chad Gibson,
of grabbing a TABC agent’s groin.
The alleged assault occurred moments before
Gibson was taken to the ground by officers:
The point when many speculate
he sustained his head injury.
In the days that followed,
the TABC and the Fort Worth Police Department would
announce the start of their internal investigations
and the new police chief urged
witnesses to come forward.
Chief Halstead continued to
support his officers’ claims,
adamantly deny the Rainbow
Lounge was targeted
and strongly contest the widespread
reference to the word "raid".
This was a mere walking inspection.
But within the first two minutes of the
employees, two of them in full uniform,
were touched inappropriately,
that changed the dynamic of what was
occurring with those two employees,
they immediately made those arrests.
"Raid" has been used a lot in the media,
but something else that has been used
in the media is the word "routine".
And if this is routine,
then the routine has got to change.
But according to Rainbow Lounge management,
nothing the officers did
that night was routine.
In a normal routine inspection, they would
have checked our license at the front.
First of all they would have
come in and asked for a manager,
explained what they were
there for, given their ID...
This did not occur that night.
They also did not go behind the
bar to check any of the liquor,
ask for any receipts,
ask for any documentation on our staff,
such as where they were certified
as a seller or server of alcohol.
When six police officers
and their sergeant,
and two TABC officers...
that’s nine officers total,
from two agencies,
hold the doorman against the wall, outside,
so he can’t run inside and tell
anyone that they’re there,
and then open the door and rush in,
that’s a raid before one single
customer had been encountered.
Before one single person had been arrested,
or even contemplated for public intoxication,
it was a raid.
It’s nothing but a raid.
I understand that the Chief of Police says
that in the eyes of the police officers,
that’s not the definition of a raid.
Ya know... Let me tell you somethin’:
If it walks like a duck
and quacks like a duck,
it’s a duck!
This was a raid.
When you have a paddy wagon
and all these officers going in to
this establishment for the first time
and pushing people around
and zip tying them...
What is this?
Is this how bars are inspected for
the first time on Main Street
or on the west side of Fort Worth?
I doubt it.
Instead of holding comments,
why was the mayor’s office and
the chief of police's office
more focused on laying blame on the "inappropriate
behaviors" of the attendees at the bar?
Let's back up and let's see what happened.
He’s painting a picture
for the general public.
The general public has
not been to a gay bar,
they do not know what a gay bar is like.
The general public probably also
associates GLBT issues with sex,
So if you paint the picture of
this lascivious, drunken bar...
then I think that could be very easily sold to a
public that is probably a bit homophobic to begin with.
I was outraged.
Because to get information from his
officers, he was, he was, he was lied to.
I was very offended
that the police chief quoted from the police report
that was not available to the public or media,
by painting the picture they did
for the police chief to read,
those officers grossly misrepresented the truth, and
the facts, and the circumstances in that bar that night.
With an internal investigation still going
on, you’re offering plenty of conclusions.
Isn’t that a little unusual
for an ongoing investigation?
No, all the statements I’m making
Remember, I asked-
[Interrupting] According to you.
I’m sorry, what?
According to you, these are facts.
There are people who are disputing that.
There is a whole community crying out
that this is not what happened.
I’m not saying it in the face of
the community that this is what happened.
I’m restating the facts that
existed from an officer
who swore to take an oath of office.
The fact that he would say,
you know... the police
are being groped and,
and all of this,
and then in the same breath, say but we’re going to do
a thorough investigation of what happened that night,
well he just made some "facts",
statements of "fact"
about what he was told was going on
without an investigation
and made that public,
and then he says he’s going to
follow up with an investigation.
Why would you say that without
investigating it first?
Other than to get people
to think it was all right.
It was all right what we did.
They were touching our police
officers, and groping them,
and making passes at them,
and dry humping them,
and whatever else they can say
to smooth over what they did.
It’s not right.
He should have kept his mouth shut
about that, until the facts were in.
But for him to put that out there with an
official, kind of, stamp on it...
It’s unfortunate that he would
take that approach and not say,
"I don’t know what exactly
happened, I wasn’t there,"
Some people have suggested that it’s been violence,
harassment, and intimidation against GLBT people.
My guys are saying otherwise.
That would be the last situation that I would want
to happen in Fort Worth on my police department.
"I hope that’s not the case."
But that’s not the approach he took.
Meanwhile, TABC Agents were providing their investigators
with details about the encounter with Chad Gibson.
I thought that they just went right
for the cheap shot, immediately.
I mean, the first thing that it reminded
me of was the ‘gay panic defense’.
There have been a couple of cases now,
where a young man comes onto or announces
his affection to a straight friend.
The straight friend beats the
shit out of him or kills him,
and then pleads, well,
he came onto me and I
freaked, and I killed him.
And that, somehow, excuses it.
And, that’s exactly what it sounded like.
He wouldn’t be the only one accused
of using the gay panic defense:
Police Chief Jeff Halstead would
ignite a new firestorm of controversy.
A patron accused of assaulting a TABC agent was
still hospitalized with life threatening injuries,
which many believed were
caused by excessive force.
Yet, Fort Worth officers
continued with their allegations
of unsolicited sexual advances
by other arrested customers.
And Chief Halstead, would publicly
support these claims
and defend his officers’ actions saying:
I thought that was the most
It basically described the attitude
of the people that were there
and the fact that he was
defending them based on the lie.
It infuriated me when I read that!
When I heard that comment, those comments,
it sickened me because that’s the
"blame the victim" mentality.
You have to understand how
that reads to people,
not just gay people, but people in general.
Because basically, what
that subtly says is,
"You’re lucky we didn’t beat
the crap out of you faggots."
And that’s exactly the way it was
interpreted around the country.
And that’s exactly the headline Dan Savage
had on his column when it was in Savage Love:
"Police Chief says, Faggots Lucky Because They Didn’t
Get The Shit Beat Out Of Them", or something like that,
and it’s, you know, they have to be very
considerate about what they say and how they say it.
[Typing on keyboard]
The quote circulated the internet rapidly.
Some questioned the Chief’s insistent claim
that the quote was taken out of context,
and he was barraged with angry phone calls,
hate filled emails,
and even received death threats.
According to one report,
threats would become so intense,
he stationed officers outside
his house for three days,
fearing for the safety of his wife and son.
The gay community felt betrayed by law enforcement
and city leaders they thought they could trust.
But with mixed emotions of
grief and determination,
they would gather for a candlelight
vigil for Chad Gibson.
I think that this is just an amazing show of support
and affection for my brother. It’s really overwhelming.
You know, hate, and prejudice,
and stereotyping, and bigotry
Cause people to do things they
wouldn’t do under normal situations.
When hate exists, compassion
has trouble thriving.
If you truly believe in justice,
then you need to ask questions.
And you need to say, “No more.”
[Crowd chants: "No More! No More!"]
Just like forty years ago, there
are casualties in this struggle.
There are those who are unnamed here tonight
who suffered here at the Rainbow Lounge,
through what was done to their
spirits and their bodies.
And there was Chad Gibson, who now is
struggling to heal from a cranial injury.
And we support Chad Gibson.
We’re going to be there for him.
[Crowd: "To Chad!"]
Seven days after the raid,
Chad Gibson would be
released from the hospital
and speak publicly for the
first time about the incident.
It’s unfortunate what happened to me,
and I hope that it doesn’t
happen to anybody else.
Three or four days ago
they were talking about
drilling a hole in my head.
That’s the worst news I’ve gotten
I think in my entire life.
they decided that they didn’t need to.
And while he admits he was drunk,
he insists he would never grab an officer.
It really makes me mad
that they would say that.
Because I know that’s not me.
But officers would have you believe
that Gibson deliberately assaulted the TABC
agent approximately thirty minutes into the raid,
even though multiple people
had already been arrested,
zip tied and escorted out of the bar.
But for the details of
how he got his injury?
Gibson can’t remember.
I remember I was at the bar,
buying drinks for
everybody, all my friends.
And then the next thing I remember is
waking up in the ICU giving them
my mom’s telephone number.
Officials would speculate Gibson was injured
after he was arrested and taken outside.
That’s when he became
sick, lost his balance
and with his hands cuffed behind his back,
hit his head on the pavement.
Next thing I know, that
sucker, he’s crumblin’.
I mean, he’s just wilted right there.
He hit the deck.
He went down like,
if you can imagine a flower, just wilting,
and the flower actually striking
the ground at the last point.
But many people, including Gibson,
weren’t convinced that a fall could
cause such a serious head injury
and the skepticism added to
the growing controversy.
Fort Worth had become a new battle
ground in the struggle for LGBT equality
and the world was watching.
News about the raid and
debate surrounding it,
would make headlines across the country.
However, many were upset with how
the media reported the story.
Every single report said
"Policeman said that patrons
molested the officers".
So, the more it was said,
the more it became true.
And that was very one-sided,
and that’s what galvanized this
community to go another way,
and to get protests going,
to get other media outlets to print both
sides of the story, to interview witnesses.
I came in it from the perspective
that you have to make noise.
You have to confront your
So we started planning to make sure
that the next few weeks
we'd keep the whole issue on the
front burner and not be forgotten.
We’re about, out on the street,
making some noise,
drawing attention to stuff,
but also, more than that,
holding our elected
officials feet to the fire,
and holding them accountable.
At the moment when all this happened,
we had anger.
I think that’s the first step, actually!
If you naturally have some anger,
you need to express it
and bang on the door a little bit.
We banged pretty hard, and pretty loud!
There was a time though,
and it was only within a few
days where we realized,
that was only going to get us so far.
And we had to move on from
an anger to a dialogue.
Some people were ready for that,
and some people were not.
But very quickly, we realized
if we wanted an investigation
that was believable,
that was complete, or anywhere near that,
we were going to have to be the ones
try to bring people from our own community
to these different investigations,
and provide an opportunity for them to share
what they witnessed in a comfortable environment.
So that Thursday night,
we had our first formal meeting of what
later became "Fairness Fort Worth".
It was a group of about ten,
or twelve of us who met.
We decided we’d get flyers,
and blanket the bars,
to get people to come out.
Then we needed to have a neutral location for
people to come to to give their statements.
Fairness Fort Worth would also develop
an interview form
to assist witnesses in writing out their
statements for the multiple investigations.
They would also provide pro-Bono attorneys
to accompany them during the interviews.
It was a very non-threatening environment.
If they had had to go
to a police department,
knock on the door, and say "uh, I’m here to
testify against your officers, where do I go?",
and suddenly they’re faced with a gauntlet
of people wearing uniforms and badges,
and they have to walk down a hallway,
by themselves, to go testify...
how many people do you think would have
shown up in a situation like that?
I was very afraid to walk into the
"lions’ den", at the police department.
That’s why I went to City
Hall to file my complaint.
Because I didn’t want to go to the
police department, and file a complaint,
because I thought, "they’re
not going to believe me",
or they’re going to roll their eyes and say
"oh my God, here’s, you know, somebody trying to
get one of our brothers in trouble", or whatever.
And I just experienced the
Fort Worth Police Department,
I didn’t want to experience them again
without having somebody on my side.
The second part of Fairness Fort Worth
was to create an organization
where there was an outlet
to have the LGBT community
plug into the city.
We wanted the promises that
the Chief of Police had made.
We wanted there to be some
teeth in those proposals.
We wanted to participate,
we wanted it to be done professionally,
funded right, and serious.
My big deal was, if we don’t show up
to protests and stuff like that,
as the crowd dwindles,
so does the attention.
And I think that anytime that we can
effectively extend our message
and extend the audience that we
can communicate our message to,
and really show more strength as
a community, we should do that.
And, at the rally, I thought that that
opportunity presented itself to us.
The events on June 28, 2009, at the Rainbow
Lounge will not shape us as a people.
Just as the events on June 28th, 1969,
did not shape us as a people then either.
What will shape us as a people is what shaped
those who stood up for themselves after Stonewall,
And that is what we do with this anger
that all of us share here today.
We are going to get this resolved
in public for all to see.
We are sick and tired of playing back room
politics over our rights and dignity.
Public officials will be held accountable!
The bashings on June 28th,
2009, at the Rainbow Lounge
happened under Mayor Moncrief’s leadership,
it was on Fort Worth Police
Chief Jeff Halstead’s watch,
and without a word from
Governor Rick Perry.
We demand accountability,
we demand explanations,
we demand action,
and we expect them now!
We thought that it was important to
have demands down on paper,
and expectations from our community that
should be met by our elected officials.
Obviously, a demand is what keeps
something a front burner.
A request can be filed away.
And the stunt, of course,
was posting the demands from the North Texas
GLBT Community to the various authorities.
Are we still angry?
Are you all ready to go down to City
Hall and post the demands on City Hall?
Then let’s march down
Main Street to City Hall,
and post our demands on City Hall!
You could feel the energy. It was
almost like electricity in the air.
As we walked by, people cheered...
You know, some people stared...
But people were cheering,
and some people joined us as we were
walking, who weren’t even a part of it!
I was like, you know, this is amazing.
One of the chants, just as
we got to City Hall, was,
"Tell me what democracy looks like".
"This is what democracy looks like!"
"Tell me what.." - right in
that cadence of marching.
Which made the whole point.
Is that it is a democracy.
It should be ground up,
it should be grassroots,
It should be for the people.
To see the community of Fort Worth
marching like that was just really,
for someone who grew up there,
it’s not something I would
have ever expected to see,
and I couldn’t have been more proud.
It showed a side of strength for us
as a community,
that there are hundreds of us here,
there are hundreds of us willing to march thirteen blocks
in this God awful heat to City Hall to post our demands,
and that sends not only a very strong
message to the larger Fort Worth society
that there’s a strong, organized gay and
lesbian community in North Texas with demands,
but that sends the message to
ourselves, that we are powerful.
We can get out there and make some noise
and really influence the results of the
Rainbow Lounge investigation and our community!
[Crowd chants: "Silent no more!
Silent no more!"]
Sixteen turbulent days after the
incident at the Rainbow Lounge,
the Mayor and city council would meet
for the first time since the raid
and they would finally hear from the
frustrated and disappointed community.
But people would soon learn that the raid
wasn’t scheduled for discussion
until almost last on an agenda
that was nearly 10 pages long.
With a packed chamber,
Blake Wilkinson and members
of Queer LiberAction
would pull off the most dramatic
and divisive tactic to date.
It was very clear from all the positioning
of the mayor and the Fort Worth Police Chief
during the weeks running
up to the City Council,
that they wanted nothing to do with
what happened at the Rainbow Lounge.
Our goal was to stand up for
ourselves as a community,
and not accept second-class,
back of the bus treatment.
And we felt as though having this issue dealt
with or put at the very last of the list
was second-class, back
of the bus treatment.
I wasn’t going to accept having, you know,
the city and Mayor hear my voice
in the early, wee hours of the morning.
Just a moment.
Will you please have a seat?
Will you please have a seat?
Will you please have a seat?
It became very uncomfortable in that room.
The tension in the room was just, palpable.
We want answers now. There’s no reason we
can’t respectively get the answers we deserve -
[A small group of protesters
storm into the room.]
[Protestors chant: "Hear us now!
Hear us now! Hear us now!..."
[Mayor:] Do you want to stay
here and address this council,
or do you want to be removed from this chamber
so they can take care of their business?
That’s your choice.
That is your choice.
[Crowd murmur swells]
People were getting up,
yelling at each other.
They were leaving. They were embarrassed.
They didn’t want to be a part of this.
These were members of the gay community.
There were points when more and more constables
and officers were coming into the room.
People didn’t know what to do.
It was absolute pandemonium.
I can’t give you, nor can
this police chief give you
a final synopsis of what happened,
because we still don’t know.
[Voice from crowd yells:
"How about an apology?"]
I can’t guarantee what the
outcome is going to be.
[Voice from crowd: "You can’t apologize
for a man being hospitalized?"]
[Crowd begins to yell]
Listen. If you want an
apology, from your Mayor,
I am sorry for what happened
in Fort Worth. I am sorry.
I think Queer LiberAction contributed
significantly that night
to getting the tension in that room raised,
to getting the Council Members open
to hearing from Fairness Fort Worth,
and to realize just how
much anger there was.
They got a little taste
of two worlds that night.
We’ve got the rational over here,
and the radical.
And you have to have both of them
to make something like this work.
Because if you don’t have the radical,
they’re not really gonna feel too much
of a need to listen to the rational.
And I think that everyone on that
council, to a certain extent,
came in with preconceived notions.
You know, Joel Burns and Kathleen Hicks,
who've been immediately calling for
investigations, right from the get go,
and then you had a bunch of other
guys on there, who were completely...
They had never heard of
the Rainbow Lounge...
some of them didn’t even know that
Fort Worth had gay people in it...
So, when they sat back and,
you know, to their credit,
every single one of those guys
sat there and listened solemnly
and heard every word we said.
I think it kind of opened their
eyes for the first time,
and the Mayor included.
Mayor Moncrief would eventually move
up the discussion on the agenda,
and for over two hours,
speakers from around the Metroplex and
the country would address the Council.
I’m from the great state of
California. San Francisco in particular.
Witnesses would stress the seriousness
of the issues the city had on its hands
and how deeply the raid had affected them.
This hurt was evident as witness,
Sara Bryant, took the podium.
That moment was probably the most
powerful moment of the entire evening.
[Mayor: "Can we get some water?"]
[Mayor: "Just take your time."]
It was, one of those little gut-wrenching moments
that everybody in the room was completely silent,
or in tears.
I’ve been to bars before,
I’ve been to gay bars before,
I’ve seen bar fights before,
I’ve seen police in bars before,
and I’ve never seen... that.
[Mayor: "One of y’all want to
stand up there with her?"]
And that was the first time that I
was really afraid of the police...
And after that...
I was overwhelmed with disappointment,
and I guess a little bit disturbed.
there’s nothing you can do
to change that it happened
and I probably won’t ever forget about it,
we just need your help to move on.
Gay, straight, young, old,
man, woman, or whatever,
I don’t think there was a single person
that wasn’t touched by what she said.
I think it just brought it
home for a lot of people...
You have a heterosexual woman who
is in a gay bar with her boyfriend,
and something like this happens,
and it wasn’t about gay
rights, or Stonewall this,
it was just about what's
right and what’s wrong,
and people need to remember that.
The gay thing is just
what got the attention.
What’s wrong is wrong,
and it needs to be made right.
I’m the one responsible,
in my position, for all of
that frustration, anger...
and tears. There were a lot
of people that were crying.
And I remember the one lady who drove non-stop
from San Francisco to get her point across.
And I thought to myself,
"what would infuriate me so much that I would drive
halfway across the United States to talk for 3 minutes,
and then drive all the way back."
And when I put myself in their shoes,
I grew a lot that night,
because you never, ever understand the
impact of an organizational decision.
But when you stand there for...
I mean, we were there past midnight...
and you hear person after
person after person,
and the dozens and dozens and dozens,
that have so much frustration
and anger towards this uniform,
I had to immediately take ownership and responsibility
as I did from the morning of June 28th on,
but it really became impactful that night.
Contrary to what some people thought,
the Mayor’s apology was not for
the raid of the Rainbow Lounge.
A city spokesman would quickly clarify:
stating that the apology simply meant that the Mayor was
sorry that anyone is hurt in Fort Worth in any incident.
This hands-off attitude would lead many
people to view the Mayor as disingenuous,
raising skepticism about his
support of the LGBT community.
Tension was building and
questions remained unanswered:
Where was the incident report that
the Chief continued to reference?
Why wasn’t it available to the public?
Then weeks after the events at the Rainbow
Lounge, it would finally be released,
only to accelerate the existing
controversy and intensify contempt.
The incident report outlined
in explicit detail,
the allegations of sexually
aggressive behavior by club patrons:
Accusing a patron of leaning his hips forward and
making physical contact with an officer’s leg,
as if he was having sex from behind.
Accusing patron, George Armstrong,
of blowing kisses at an officer.
Claiming men and women were reaching
their hands out to touch officers,
moving their bodies in a sexually suggestive
manner, as if they were sexually interested.
And supporting the TABC Agent’s assault
allegation against Chad Gibson.
This incident report then was disseminated to all
the people of Fort Worth, Texas and the world...
whoever asked for it...
and it painted a terrible picture.
The bad thing is that there are going
to be people who read that
and believe that’s what happened.
It’s in writing, the police put it down,
this is what happened.
We were all just incensed!
Don’t use it as a wedge tool
to try and tap into this kind of fear
of gays that some of the community has,
Because you know,
"we’re all sexual predators",
"we can’t help ourselves so much so, that we
can’t keep our hands off a man in a uniform."
It’s not like some Village People fixation.
We are capable of restraining ourselves.
And it was offensive to us to suggest
that we would behave like that.
That we would somehow behave
differently than straight people.
And I think that spelling it out like that
really illustrates how homophobic it was,
and really standing up for
ourselves and saying,
"hey, that’s not acceptable."
That's exactly what those officers
believed they could get away with.
The reports seemed to have very much of a
feel of being a reaction to the press coverage
and what was already said,
as opposed to just being an
unbiased take on what happened.
The report officially countered the claim that
Chad was injured inside during his arrest,
even going as far as to
report what DID NOT happen:
"“Gibson did not hit his
head on the ground."
There was kind of this feeling
that it was a response to,
rather than, "here’s the paperwork
we filled out that night."
And there was a possible reason why.
Police records would later reveal that the
report was not completed according to protocol.
In fact, while the event happened at
approximately 1:30 Sunday morning,
the report was not finalized
until early Monday morning,
over 27 hours later.
They had already had a rally
at the bar at five o’clock,
it had already made the news media’s
cycles live at five and six,
so they had a huge amount of knowledge
as to the reaction in the community,
and that report was clearly written
to defend their actions.
And as a citizen, I find
it shocking that you have,
according to the report,
five people arrested, a young
man in intensive care,
and the officers went home
without writing a report.
In Texas, in order to commit
a public intoxication,
there’s essentially two
elements you have to fulfill:
You have to be intoxicated,
and it has to be to a degree that you
are a danger to yourself or others.
If you don’t satisfy both of those
prongs, you’re not publicly intoxicated.
They have to be a DANGER
to themselves or others.
That is, they have to appear that way.
Now how does that happen?
Well, if you read the police report,
there were people who had bloodshot eyes
and had liquor on their breath.
Well, we would assume
that if they’re in a bar,
they’re going to have
liquor on their breath.
And as far as "bloodshot
eyes" are concerned,
I have bloodshot eyes right now,
and I’ve had nothing to drink.
Those two are not indicators
in and of themselves,
of ANY intoxication,
let alone the kind of intoxication
that will get you arrested in a bar.
When I think of what they were doing,
they were trying to cover their asses,
and they weren’t going...
They happened to use gays as an excuse to cover
their ass for not doing their job correctly.
It makes me laugh that they
say that people were sexually,
you know, groping the officers.
We were all scared!
Who gets horny when they’re scared?
I mean it’s like, "Oh my Gosh!! I
might get injured or go to jail..."
I wanna get some", you know?
TABC Agent Aller would say that the grabbing of
the groin was an indicator of Public Intoxication,
In other words, an indicator that Gibson
was a danger to himself or others.
However, Aller’s inconsistent description of
what happened would be heavily scrutinized.
If you look at the TABC report and
what Agent Aller told the investigators,
the terminology morphed over time.
Aller’s varied use of words included:
"backhanded" and "smacked".
But these words tend to paint
wildly different pictures.
For many the word “grab”
implies to “grasp a hand full”
versus to “tap or slap”,
something that could’ve accidentally
occurred with the back of the hand
while walking through a narrow hallway.
Many became suspicious.
Was the encounter more
like a grab or a slap?
How could it be both?
Why change your story, if it’s not a story?
The significance of all
of that morphing is...
that it’s totally unbelievable
that it ever happened.
Meanwhile, some glaring omissions in the
incident report raised even more concerns.
While the report was clear in its allegations
against George Armstrong blowing kisses at officers,
it did not include any details of his
aggressive takedown and arrest by officers.
Nor would it include details about the multiple people
reportedly detained or arrested and then released,
including Benjamin Guttery,
who was released after his partner’s nephew dropped
the name of a fellow Fort Worth Police Officer.
It shocks me, honestly, that I wasn’t
mentioned at all in the report.
It shocks me, because to me,
I was a big part of it!
People were placed under arrest,
and you have no audit trail...
you don’t have their names...
you don’t know what they look like...
you don’t even have a record they existed.
That’s a problem.
It totally bothers me and scares me
that it would have been swept under the rug
and that I would have fallen in
between the cracks, so to speak.
It goes back to their willingness
and their ability to make statements,
whether they’re true or not,
and be comfortable giving those
statements to the community at large.
Nearly three weeks after the raid,
the TABC Administrator would publicly
apologize on behalf of the agency
and take some responsibility for
the events at the Rainbow Lounge.
[Audio: Alan Steen]
So if they shouldn’t have
been there, why were they?
For answers, you have to go back
two evenings and work forward.
TABC Agent Aller and two
Fort Worth officers,
including Officer Jason Back,
discussed the idea of checking bars and
decided to go to the Rainbow Lounge,
despite it being open for less
than a week, with no complaints.
However, they were unable to enter
the bar because of policy conflicts
between the two law enforcement agencies.
They would wait for assistance from Sergeant
Morris with the Fort Worth Police Department.
I walked through the
parking lot a little bit.
There’s a back fence that you
can see into a back patio area.
Officer Back and I stood back by the
fence and just kind of peaked in.
According to their statements,
that’s when the officers saw men
sitting closely at a picnic table,
describing one, later identified as
one of the club’s go-go dancers,
as "almost naked, wearing only underwear".
While we were looking through, you
could actually see the owner,
in a brisk walk, walk up to one of the
individuals that was wearing a bikini,
whispered in his ear, and that guy got
up and ran inside real quick.
It would lead me to believe
that there was possibly...
he might have drugs, you
know, based on his actions,
or maybe there was some lewd conduct
going on somewhere else. I don't know.
When asked why he didn’t fill out a complaint card
related to what he allegedly saw on the patio,
Aller, a 5 year veteran of the TABC,
said he “forgot”.
They would soon learn that Sergeant
Morris was unable to join them
and their conflicting policies restricted
them from proceeding with the bar check.
According to the police report,
as the officers began to leave,
they witnessed a patron
exit the Rainbow Lounge who
“was obviously intoxicated. He had the swayed walk,
the unsteady balance... walking in a weaving pattern”.
Officers then witnessed him enter his
vehicle and put the key in the ignition.
Officer Back approached the car and noticed the man
had a strong odor of alcohol on his breath and person.
Officers did not cite him
for public intoxication,
determining he was not a
danger to himself or others,
despite being behind the wheel,
clearly with the intent to drive.
A short while later,
officers noticed the same intoxicated patron
driving his vehicle on a nearby street.
Eventually, they found
him in a parking lot,
one block away from the Rainbow Lounge.
He was sitting in the driver’s
seat, his pants were undone,
he was shirtless,
his cowboy boots, button-up shirt and a
pair of underwear were in the backseat.
Only now, the officers felt the patron met
the criteria for a Public Intoxication arrest.
During roll call the next day,
officers would share stories
from the night before.
Sergeant Morris would inform them of
arrests made for public intoxication
and after hours drinking from the
Rosedale Saloon and Cowboy Palace,
a pair of straight bars
near the Rainbow Lounge
with a history of over serving
and a reputation for violence.
The Sergeant would learn details about
the visit to the Rainbow Lounge,
including the nearby public
and officers would perpetuate the rumor
that police had seen men in thongs
on the patio of the gay bar
simulating sex with each other.
The next evening, after leaving an
event at the Stockyards,
TABC agents, outfitted in special event
uniforms of a polo shirt and khaki pants,
met up with Fort Worth officers
to once again conduct bar inspections of
the Rosedale Saloon and Cowboy Palace.
Once there, they would encounter
several aggressive customers
and a Fort Worth officer would
even be kicked in the back
by one of nine arrested
for public intoxication.
Shortly before 1 AM,
the Fort Worth operation
led by Sergeant Morris
reconvened again in a nearby
shopping center parking lot,
and the decision was made to
go to the Rainbow Lounge.
According to TABC agent
trainee Jason Chapman,
this is when the Fort Worth officers
distributed the zip tie flex cuffs
used in the arrests at the Rainbow Lounge.
It outraged me,
that these officers and the TABC,
after inspecting two Hispanic bars,
ended up in a parking lot to do paperwork,
and then decided to raid
the Rainbow Lounge.
And I believe, that those police
officers and those TABC agents thought,
"Hey, this is a dump part of
town, and who’s gonna complain?"
They had gone to two
other bars, raided them,
had kind of dicey confrontations,
filled a paddy wagon with people,
and then they showed up at
Rainbow Lounge, hyped up, angry.
They were physically rough with everybody.
It was just excessive.
It seemed like they were...
it just seems like they were just repulsed.
I do think that once in the bar,
once they kind of became aware of what type
of bar it was, and the crowd that was there,
I do think that there was a
certain reaction to that.
But it’s one of those things that uh...
It comes from a place of ignorance.
It comes from a place of not having much
interaction with the gay community.
I would have liked to have known
from each officer who was there,
whether they had any gay friends,
what their definition of gay was,
whether they thought it was a choice,
or biological, or whatever.
Whether they found men in thongs offensive.
Those questions may seem silly,
but it sets the tone for the
mindset of that individual.
Are police officers as
aggressive in the Rainbow Lounge
as they are at Rivercrest Country Club?
I don’t think so.
And why is that?
The protests, the news media,
the phone calls, the emails...
All of that culminated in the city
feeling the pressure to do something.
I think that there is a problem,
and that we need to
figure out how to fix it
so that something like
this never happens again.
We begin with the Diversity Task Force:
The City Manager created the
Diversity Task Force,
which was comprised of
city and community leaders
to inform the Mayor and city leaders
of issues related to the LGBT Community.
I’m skeptical at this point that
they’re going to make any major changes.
And I don’t know if this is ever going to
change, because this is the Bible Belt.
But the Diversity Task Force immediately
endorsed the two recommendations
already submitted by the
Human Relations Commission.
So I wasn’t sure how that would be
received by the rest of the city.
I certainly would say that the
recommendations were bold.
The work had begun,
and Fort Worth was on track
to become a more inclusive city.
Momentum was building,
and even though the future of the
proposed recommendations was uncertain,
the community was optimistic
about the city’s progress.
And so it’s gonna be up to
us to see whether or not
the gay community stays
organized and vigilant.
Chief Halstead would continue to
work closely with community leaders,
join the Diversity Task Force,
and appoint a full time liaison
to the LGBT community.
However, with the progress and
focus on future improvements,
it wouldn’t be long before
the backlash began.
You had an incident at the Rainbow Lounge,
and I think you’ve made a
knee jerk reaction from that.
The episode at the Rainbow Lounge
has been exploited for the
purpose of advancing an agenda
from the lesbian, homosexual, bisexual,
transgender segment of society.
[Protestor: "Shame! Shame!
It's a disgrace!"]
[Protestor: "We're against pedophiles! We're
against sodomy! It's a disgusting act!"]
Please, do not make this the
San Francisco of the South!
A few friends of ours who
caught wind of what was going on,
what happened at the Rainbow Lounge,
and then the stirring that it caused
among, you know, these folks...
and um, them wanting to just
really try to push their agenda.
And so we definitely felt a need to come
out and let them know that we don’t agree.
I was born homophobic.
As they say, you know,
they were born homosexual,
well, I was born homophobic.
Okay, and so we’re promoting
the gay agenda...
and what would that be?
Oh, you mean,
the rights that everybody else has?
Gee, that’s self-serving, isn’t it?
Let's just, for instance, if we said,
okay, perhaps they are.
Perhaps there is a little bit of that.
Don’t we need it?
I mean, we’re not there yet.
We don’t have civil rights. I
can’t get married in this state.
Maybe we can use this and
I hope we can use it.
Because I think that you
have to expose to educate.
I feel like, as a community,
especially an oppressed community,
you’ve gotta take every opportunity you can
to draw public attention to your issues.
If we didn’t have stuff like that,
they’d want to know what
we’re complaining about.
You know, at least here, we
have something, you know, look:
Here’s a specific example
of what’s happening to us.
I don’t see what’s wrong with promoting it,
shining a light on something
like that and going, look!
This is what happens to us
when you turn your back on us!
People can walk around and just
treat us however they want,
and you don’t have to deal with it, we do.
I don’t see anything wrong with that,
taking an opportunity and running with it, it’s
not like the straight agenda doesn’t do that.
Politics is full of that. Republicans,
that’s what they do.
I mean, I don’t understand the difference.
Except they don’t like this "agenda."
But it’s not an agenda, it’s a life.
The TABC would be the first to release
results of their internal investigation
and the community would finally
have some answers and affirmation.
According to the 32 page report,
the two agents and a Sergeant committed a
total of 19 policy violations, including:
Sergeant Terry Parsons,
who was not at the scene,
would also face disciplinary action
for violating four policies.
Yet, the report on the excessive force
allegations was still to come.
On the other hand,
the Fort Worth Internal Investigation
report was still incomplete.
With pressure mounting from all sides,
Chief Halstead would present preliminary
findings to the City Council.
But would it be enough to
satisfy the community?
Chief Halstead admitted that officers made
critical mistakes the night of the raid,
largely due to a flawed bar check policy,
but he would immediately take actions
to create a safer city for citizens
and law enforcement alike.
I’m not going to have a repeat
of this kind of "raid mentality"
with a van coming up, and
skidding to the entrance
and all these police cars...
That’s not service.
So I really wanted a bar check policy
that escalated with importance,
and as it escalated,
more resources came in.
The Chief’s new bar check policy
would now escalate through three levels,
ending with a bar investigation,
resembling the type of force
exhibited at the Rainbow Lounge.
If this was a level three bar check,
where this is a documented location with
multiple violent acts that are committed,
multiple violations of the liquor code,
then we do have an escalated response
that needs to take place,
but everyone would understand
why it went that way.
This kind of behavior could
have and would have go on
unchallenged had this event not occurred.
Ya know, I’m happy that we,
because of who we were and who we knew,
that we were able to be a driving force
in opening that discussion.
A revised public intoxication policy would
also emerge in the wake of the raid.
Vague indicators alone would
be insufficient for arrest.
Officers must clearly
articulate probable cause
why they believe that a person
is intoxicated to the degree
that he is a danger to himself or others.
I have made mistakes myself during the
early parts of this investigation,
and I know that I’ve offended some people
and I will apologize, because
that was never, ever my intent.
I got into many, many email
arguments with people
who would read a blog,
and they really thought
I said this in public.
They thought I made a statement like that
and I said that I have never
said that word in my life,
and that I don’t have a
hateful bone in my body.
So when you see all that
and you’re just trying to do
your job and represent the city,
Yet the main question on everyone’s
mind remained unanswered:
Why did they come to the Rainbow Lounge?
According to the Chief, it was
a matter of public safety.
The area which includes the Rainbow Lounge,
had a high percentage of public intoxication
arrests per licensed establishments.
It was believed that these arrests
would help prevent DWis and drunk
driving related fatalities.
So, the question we all
have to ask ourselves:
"Is public intoxication
a public safety issue?"
And from my position, yes it is.
I didn’t agree with the answer.
It’s like, why did we
do the raids like that?
To protect people on the roads
and to curb drunk driving.
And I don’t understand at
all how that would work,
going into a bar, expecting
to see drunk people.
That’s going to protect drunk driving?
One of the persons that were arrested,
and two that were detained,
had one, a cab, and one, a designated
driver who was stone cold sober.
So that doesn’t really...
I don’t understand that.
How can anyone justify walking
into a group of people,
just doing what they do,
and pulling them out one at a time.
It’s a shakedown.
It’s a shakedown!
It’s a psychological shakedown!
Let's put the fact of policies aside.
Were they all rookies?
Would these police officers know
that it was totally inappropriate
to have the number,
the kind of police involved,
and the use of aggressive force?
Why did they feel the need to be violent?
Ya know, why did they have
to slam people around?
It was George Armstrong
they said blew the kiss,
and that’s the one I witnessed, ya know,
I saw him flash a peace sign.
There was no blowing kisses,
and, my comment when I
read it, even, was still,
even if he blew a kiss...
Really? That was a reason to
throw him through a door?
The officer and our interviews confirm
that they did bounce back and forth
off the walls during the course of arrest.
At about the third bounce off of the wall,
the officer then went inside
of the men’s restroom
and was trying to take the
subject down to the ground
to complete the arrest.
The officer puts out a distress
call over the radio...
Eighteen seconds later, he
puts out a second request,
this one a little more stress in his voice:
and literally, within just a few seconds,
the two TABC agents who were coming to
assist in the arrest of the first gentleman,
contacted Chad Gibson.
One of our employees
saw that they were struggling getting Mr.
Gibson’s arms behind his back,
so our officer inserted himself,
and he applied an infra-orbital technique.
What that means is that
the palm is open, and they push
towards the bottom tendon,
the bridge of the nose
where it meets your lip,
and when this is applied,
regardless of who you are
or your impairment level,
you are going to stand straight
up and release to this pain.
The appearance of this technique
would explain why witnesses
from several feet away
thought they saw a Fort Worth officer
put Chad Gibson in a choke hold.
The officer backed up,
the TABC agents took Chad Gibson to the
ground in the middle of a hallway.
There was no body slam.
There was no violence.
It was a controlled release.
We had full control of him,
except we couldn't get
the handcuffs on him,
which is why we went to the ground.
From what I observed and
the control I felt,
there was no way he would have injured
himself in the way that we did it.
When I contacted Gibson,
I never took my hands off him
until he was led outside.
With allegations of excessive
force still pending,
TABC would take a dramatic
step towards closure,
disciplining two high ranking employees,
and terminating Agent Christopher Aller,
Agent Trainee Jason Chapman
and their supervisor,
Sergeant Terry Parsons.
What happened that night was wrong,
and it kind of made me feel good
that the TABC recognized the
gravity of what had occurred.
And quite honestly, firing those men,
as horrible as it is,
needed to happen.
There’s an institutional problem.
You guys are doing this, and
it’s not just in Fort Worth.
It’s happened all over the state.
It’s kind of a cowboy mentality,
and it’s the atmosphere of the entire...
association or organization.
So, it’s going to have to go beyond that.
While anxiously awaiting the TABC report
addressing excessive force
and the official findings in
the Fort Worth investigation,
the community would use
the newly found momentum
to unite and celebrate an
especially poignant gay pride.
I think for a lot of people, it’s going
to take on a certain deeper meaning.
Because I think we have a little more to
be proud of than we have in the past.
[Dance Music] [Crowd cheers]
I’m glad that Fort Worth and North
Texas turned out in the numbers they did...
I haven’t seen a Fort Worth
parade like this in years...
Events like this bring
and that’s why I think so
many people showed up.
[Dance Music] [Crowd cheers]
Members of the LGBT community and
witnesses of the Rainbow Lounge Raid
alleged seven Fort Worth
officers and two TABC agents
swarmed into the bar
with the intent to harass
and intimidate customers.
Officers maintained it was a
simple, routine bar check.
But what would the results of the Fort
Worth internal investigation find?
130 days after the raid,
the answers would be revealed
right outside the very
doors where it all began.
The investigation revealed that
Fort Worth police officers
entered the Rainbow Lounge
to conduct a roundup of intoxicated people.
It was described many, many times
by patrons throughout the
investigation as a "raid",
and after I read hundreds and hundreds
and HUNDREDS of transcribed interviews,
I agree with them.
It gave them the appearance
that this was a raid.
According to witnesses,
Fort Worth police officers
did not use excessive force.
According to the witnesses,
Fort Worth police officers
did not use excessive force.
When Chief Halstead made the comment,
“they found no evidence
of excessive force”...
I knew what my own statement was,
and the things that I had
seen at the Rainbow Lounge
and I knew that it was excessive force.
But I was there, and I was not drunk.
I saw it firsthand, I took pictures of it,
and basically he’s telling me that
what I had to say didn’t matter,
that what I saw, wasn’t what I saw.
You could have what they
feel is excessive force,
and yet a witness standing
right next to them
gives a different observation of what
they saw from Fort Worth officers.
What the community perceives
as excessive force
is different from a departmental standard
where you’re going to
impact someone’s career.
When making arrests, or during
any involvement with an arrest,
Fort Worth officers used only their hands
and the minimal amount of force
necessary to effect the arrest.
Fort Worth police officers did not
violate any prevision or policy
that was in existence on June 28th,
2009, in regards to bar checks.
Of the 38 allegations investigated,
only three officers were found to
have violated existing policy,
resulting in five days suspension
and one written reprimand.
So when you look at all of the allegations,
and you only narrate the sustained ones,
I go back two years with our
entire organizational history,
I see a range of discipline that’s fair,
and I went to the highest range on all
of the ones I administered discipline.
In fact, Chief Halstead disagreed with
many of the department’s recommendations.
He would increase the discipline
from written reprimand
to a one day suspension
for Sergeant Morris,
the officer who led the operation,
alleged patrons were reaching
for him in a sexual manner,
and arrested a patron
for “hunching” his leg.
Officer Back, who was involved with
the arrest and release of Benjamin Guttery
and accused George Armstrong of
blowing kisses before arresting him,
received the steepest
increase in discipline:
a three day suspension,
instead of a written reprimand for his
role in the delay of the incident report
and the release of Guttery
Arresting somebody wrongly
for public intoxication,
and then supposedly after
they’re publicly intoxicated,
you just let them go, Scott free,
and then you don’t even
mention them in the report?
I guess it makes me feel like
he saw that was ridiculous.
Officer Gober, who was responsible for
writing the controversial incident report
and made the unproven allegation that a
patron simulated sex with him from behind,
received a one day suspension:
an increase from the recommended
who performed the infra-orbital
pressure point maneuver on Gibson,
maintained a written reprimand.
The result of this investigation,
that sits in front of me,
show that on June 28th,
we did not provide service to the
GLBT community with respect.
What frustrated me the most,
was their delivery of service was viewed
by everyone there as unprofessional,
and that’s why I went with the strongest
discipline on that allegation,
because professionalism is one of our
highest ideals that we stand for,
and the three days suspension is not going
to be understood outside of this culture,
but a three days suspension for unprofessional
conduct is very, very significant.
It affects transfers.
It affects their ability to move to
specialty units within our city,
and I can mandate a lot
of additional training.
I definitely don’t think
that it had the same impact on them as it
did for those people who were arrested,
or Chad Gibson when he was
hurt by the police officers,
or the emotional stress the community
went through because of this raid.
I would like for the police that
were involved in this to realize
the damage that they did,
not only to the people that
were physically harmed,
but to people that saw what happened.
You know, it’s like...
I mean, I’m never going to forget that,
and I wish that I wasn’t there that night.
So I would just like them to
know the fear that they created,
the distrust they created...
because of the lack of
proper and adequate disciplinary actions,
does not set the standard
What sort of message does the lack
of significant discipline
send to both the community
and the officers?
And I asked our friends
at Fairness Fort Worth,
what is appropriate?
Do you think if I gave that
one officer thirty days,
instead of three days,
he would learn ten times as fast?
Because there’s not one study
anywhere in the United States
that says monetary punishment
is a faster learning cycle.
So, the really most impactful
discipline is me sitting in this room,
individually, with every employee,
and sternly telling them how
they embarrassed our city.
And all three of them became emotional
when they received their discipline.
That’s more punishment than I could
give them out of their paycheck.
He said that he could not make his
officers give an apology,
and I think that if they were really sorry
to the community, or felt remorse,
they would have come to the
community and apologize.
[Fighting back tears]
Those officers took something from
me I may never get back.
They took my sense of safety and security.
And they had no right to do that.
[Agent Aller: "and we took care
of what we had to take care of."]
What’s sad is that I actually
felt like I made a difference.
I mean, I remember sitting
with the sergeant
and standing out afterwards
going "man, I feel good",
"I feel like we saved some lives tonight.
Kept people off the road."
And what about the results of the
second phase of the TABC investigation?
This report would also clear the two
agents of excessive force,
failing to determine the source
of Chad Gibson’s injuries.
I don’t think that anything that could have
happened after the Rainbow Lounge raid
would ever be considered
justice by everyone.
I think that there was so much anger
and such a difference of opinion as to
what should result from that.
The bottom line is that
we need to move forward.
We’re never going to be satisfied with
the results of the investigation.
We have to accept that.
To keep fighting that
fight would be futile.
I hope that, at some point,
that at the very least,
we’ve learned something from
the entire sordid mess.
I think that this tragic event has created
and will create so much wonderful
change in the community.
Sometimes as awful as it is,
bad things need to happen
in order to have positive things come,
and I think in this case,
in the system, the system needed
a major shakeup like this.
Do I wish that the Rainbow Lounge
incident never happened?
In most ways, yes.
I wish that it had never happened.
But you can’t change that,
and so from that, you make
progress with what ya got.
And, we as a city,
have recognized that we
have some short comings,
and we’re stepping out to address those.
What came out of the Diversity
Task Force were twenty,
fairly progressive, leap
of faith recommendations
that were categorized in areas
of economic development,
human resources and community relations.
The Diversity Task Force recommendations
dealt with city policies and
practices and ordinances
designed to address issues of
the LGBT community and beyond.
The City Manager unconditionally
supported 16 of the 20 recommendations
and the remaining ones were follow-ups
that needed more information.
I can’t think of a city
in the United States
that has accomplished that much
in that short of period of time.
And it’s really amazing for a city
in Texas to have accomplished that.
We’re in effect,
living up to our highest
aspirations of faith,
and our highest aspirations and
hopes as a progressive city.
Then, in a six to three vote,
the City Council would approve one
of the remaining recommendations:
The amendment to the city’s
prohibiting discrimination in
employment or housing accommodations
based on transgender, gender
identity or gender expression.
Our diversity in this city is our
In a matter of months after the raid,
Fort Worth, Texas would emerge
as a leader in LGBT equality.
You know, whether it remains
or continues its course
to become more accepting
for the GLBT community,
I would hope so.
Chief Halstead would continue to improve
his relationship with the LGBT community
and create a more inclusive
He listens to us,
he responds promptly to most
of the requests that we make,
so I think that is a big difference
from where we were in the beginning.
There’s been so much progress made,
due in no small part to his leadership.
That’s the reality of it.
For the first time in eighteen years,
I’ve been able to be myself at work
and I haven’t had to separate
those two parts of me.
And that’s been very important.
We have officers now that can call their
supervisor and tell their sergeant,
I need a family day, because
my significant other is ill.
These are things that have all
begun because of this incident.
And for me, being a member of the GLBT
community and having a family myself,
the fact that my family is a little bit closer to being
respected and treated like traditional families...
Changes would continue within the
Fort Worth Police Department.
Chief Halstead wrote a letter to recruits
expressing his support of
a diverse police force
and actively sought new officers
within the LGBT community.
Fort Worth would mandate diversity training
for the city’s nearly 6000 employees,
including police and fire,
as a tool to help eliminate discrimination,
promote a better understanding
of the LGBT community,
and improve service among
all citizens of Fort Worth.
In addition to administrative changes,
the TABC would also institute diversity
training for employees across Texas,
including approximately 300 certified
peace officers and 400 civilians.
It would also appoint a liaison
to the LGBT community.
I think that we have become
a community, actually.
I mean, we say it’s a community before,
but really, I think now, it’s
defined it more clearly to us.
Fort Worth’s LGBT Community
is united in a way that it
has not been united before.
It’s not as passive as it had been
certainly 20+ years ago,
and as passive as people thought
it was even a year or two ago.
I never thought Fort Worth would have
this type of an organized
gay community with clout,
who are serious,
and get this type of positive
response from the city.
If we had any legacy at
all of that evening,
was, what would have gone by as, you know,
an important anniversary that was mentioned
at the end of a lot of newscasts,
instead became a national discussion.
Because people talked a little bit
more about what Stonewall really meant
and how far we really had come.
And yeah, it’s been forty years,
and we’ve come a long way...
but have we?
And I think that discussion,
the Rainbow Lounge
incident facilitated that.
When things like the Rainbow
Lounge raid happen,
I think it really helps to
remind people everywhere that,
you know, gosh, we’re not there yet.
History can repeat itself anywhere,
and as if something’s going on in one town,
you need to know that, because
it could be your town,
your rights that are
being trampled on next.
From the way things have been
in Fort Worth in the past,
you would have never expected
something like this to happen...
and it did.
So if it can happen in Fort Worth,
it can happen anywhere.
If there’s lessons to be
learned for other cities,
it’s to not wait for an incident like this
to start building coalitions,
and to educate your public
and your civic leaders.
When a city listens to its citizens,
gathers input from those citizens,
and really takes action,
then a lot can be accomplished
in a very short period of time.
It shows us, you know, one more time that,
to create a lot of change, and
a lot of change very quickly,
you don’t need a lot of people.
You don’t need lists and lists
and thousands of dollars
to change the situation for the better.
Speaking out is one of the best things
about living in this country.
It’s that we’re all able to do it,
and while we don’t always feel
like that voice is heard,
you’d be surprised.
No one believed that a bunch of queens
in a bar in Fort Worth, Texas,
would have the kind of voice that
would be heard around the world.
But it was.
People need to be reminded that
whenever you see something wrong, whenever
something happens that shouldn’t happen,
whether you’re a part of that community,
whether you’re a part of the
people that it affects,
You have a voice
and you should use it.