Alex Blaze

Violence on the rise, but the police won't be stopping it

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 01, 2009 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: alcohol, britality, busby, California, cruising for sex, Dan Savage, Fort Worth, jeff halstead, lansing, LGBT, Michigan, police, political fundraiser, raid, san diego, Texas, torture, violence

Great minds thinking alike and all, I was actually going to write a post similar to Waymon's this morning highlighting some of the violence against queer people this past month and asking, "What's going on?"

And not just with all this violence, but also with all the people saying "This is 2009, we should have marriage by now!" Yes, it's 2009, but homophobia isn't over. And it doesn't just end by the minutes ticking away on the clock or by getting a new calendar for the new year. For all we know, we could be headed into an era of increased homophobia. Several European countries are already noticing it, and there's no reason that it couldn't happen here in the US in coming years either. As much faith as we have that people will become more "educated" and that more education always improves things for us, there are many moments in history that were more accepting of homosexuality than they are now and yet they all managed to become more homophobic or restrictive of sexuality in general.

Also, America now seems to think that violence is an appropriate response to just about any situation in which an authority figure isn't being listened to, whether the situation involves queer people or not, whether the victims are being violent or not. But, just like any time when violence is on the rise, queer people are particularly at risk.

I wanted to highlight a few instances of homophobic police violence and police homophobia from just this past week.

First, here's a story of a lesbian couple hosting a political fundraiser in San Diego before it got stormed by police pursuing a neighbor's false noise complaint. They showed up in 8 patrol cars and a helicopter:

While trying to deal with the complaint, guests at the party surrounded Abbott and he felt threatened, Yancey said.

"We don't like people standing behind us - we have Tasers, guns, clubs," he said.

Busby said no more than 30 people were still at the party. Yancey said deputies' reports indicate there could have been as many as 50.

When Abbott arrived, Yancey said, he told Barman about the complaint, and she uttered an expletive about a neighbor. Abbott asked Barman for her birth date so he could issue a noise warning, but Barman refused to give it, he said.

Barman tried to walk away, Yancey said, and Abbott grabbed her. The guests took Barman away, and Abbott used pepper spray on them. In the chaos, someone kicked the emergency response team member, a woman who is 5-foot-2, Yancey said.

"He was pepper-spraying the faces of anyone who tried to talk to him," Busby said. "People were stunned. It was something that none of us has experienced."

In her statement, Barman said she asked the deputy why he needed her birth date, because he knew her name and where she lived.

"He told me I was under arrest, grabbed my right arm, twisted it behind me and threw me on the ground," she said.

When Stratton asked the deputy to be careful because Barman had shoulder surgery recently, the deputy "knocked her to the ground," Barman said.

After the pepper spray was used, the crowded backed off, and Abbott saw Barman in the kitchen and grabbed her, Yancey said. A man held on to Barman's foot to prevent her from being taken out of the room, and she fell to the floor. Abbott took out his Taser, the man backed off, and Barman was arrested, he said.

Go read the entire article. The worst part is the absolute lack of responsibility the police demonstrate in this. According to them, the problem isn't that they entered ready to wage war here (did they really need a helicopter to respond to a noise disturbance?), the problem is that the 30-some people didn't all move in front of the police officer without being told. Of course he had to tackle the hostess; she wouldn't give him her birth date! And the Taser? Well, if you anything to try to save someone from police violence, you obviously deserve to play a game of Russian Roulette. People should learn to respect police, you know.

In Lansing, gay rights leaders are involved in a fight with the police department's gay entrapment program. Police have been sending in undercover police officers to arrest people for even talking about sex in the park:

Triangle Foundation, which monitors and reports on hate crimes and discrimination against the LGBT community, has long criticized what they have characterized as "Bag-a-Fag" or gay sting operations. The term was coined by Michigan State Police troopers involved in operations at state highways, according to a report by former judge and lawyer Rudy Sierra.

Critics argue that men caught up in such stings often have done nothing but discuss sex with police decoys. A Michigan Messenger investigation last fall about a similar operation in Mount Pleasant found that men were arrested for only talking about engaging in sexual activity, including one man who was arrested for saying he was into "gardening."

The city is now engaged in a FOIA fight to see how much of this was motivated by politics, especially since, while the police have taken the much-used path of saying they were only responding to complaints, it turns out that the only complaint was from a police commissioner:

Board of Police Commissioners member Jan Kolp said she placed a call to the head of the Lansing Police Department's special operations unit which resulted in a May 22 sex sting operation in the city's Fenner Nature Center, which has raised questions about command and control of police operations, as well as concerns about what some community groups say may be an unfair targeting of gay men in the capital city.[...]

Additionally, a Public Safety Committee hearing has been scheduled on July 1 to investigate how the sting was instigated and conducted.

In an interview on Friday evening, Kolp said she called Lt. Larry Klaus, head of the police's special operations unit, about men soliciting sex from other men in the nature center, which sits on 130 acres on the city's southeast side. "I asked him if he could give us some help over there."

It wasn't just that she made a phone call. Apparently it was enough to jump start the surveillance program, as this email Todd Heywood, whose been providing great coverage of these events, uncovered:

I'd also like to get Police Commissioner, Jan Kolp off my back and help out Lt. Nosotti. Apparently the fella's are out in full force at Fenner looking for male love. I'd like to set up some surveillance and see if we can catch a couple of them servicing one and other, so they can be charged with Gross Indecency.

And if you think that this is just an issue for disrespectable queers who are doing who knows what in front of the children, think again. If people are being arrested for talking about sex, or even talking about gardening, then imagine how a very respectable same-sex couple who walks hand-in-hand on an evening stroll through the park will be treated by undercover officers. While they have just as much a right as any straight couple to take a walk in the park, something tells me that they'd be treated differently.

Waymon already posted earlier this week about the raid on Ft. Worth, but it's worth bringing up again because the Ft. Worth police chief issued a statement and it demonstrates a particular callous brand of tribalism:

Monday, police chief Jeff Halstead said the officers' actions are being investigated. However, he also said that officers that entered the bar during the scheduled inspection were touched inappropriately.

"You're touched and advanced in certain ways by people inside the bar, that's offensive," he said. "I'm happy with the restraint used when they were contacted like that."

Witnesses denied the chief's account.

Even if the ridiculous accusation that a dude fondled an armed police officer for no reason during a raid is true, it's still no reason to break someone's skull and cause brain injury. On some level, after all the torture, the "get tough" military camps for troubled teens that don't do anything to help them, the two wars, the prison camps at Guantanamo and Basra, the exceptionalist "America, fuck yeah!" mentality that requires us to keep even nuclear war as an option to oppose anything any other country does, the reliance on police to solve any dispute between people, the increase in incarceration rates, the increasingly filthy conditions people find themselves in in prison, the Tasing sprees police have been on that end with dead people in situation where no violence is necessary, the fact that we treat drug use as a moral failing worthy of a "tough on crime" response instead of treatment, and so many other events that can't all be listed here, that we've come to a place where we not only accept violence from people in positions of authority, we expect from them to show that they aren't pussies who can be toyed with.

That is, in fact, the only way to read the police chief's statement and the fact that he's "happy" with one of the bar patrons being hospitalized. And Dan Savage is right to call it the gay panic defense:

This is a classic example of the Gay Panic Defense. In the very recent past all a straight man who brutally murdered a gay man had to say was, "He made a pass at me!", and the jury would ignore the evidence and let the murderer off. The Gay Panic Defense doesn't fly in many courts of law these days but it still has currency in the court of public opinion. And the chief of police in Forth Worth, a major U.S. city, is attempting to use the Gay Panic Defense to convince the citizens of Fort Worth to ignore the evidence--to ignore photographic evidence and credible eyewitness accounts--and let his officers off.

His entire post is worth reading for more details.

All in all, though, there's little reason to believe that America's government has moved all that much forward on these issues. If we still can't go to a bar without the risk of being beat up by a police officer, then why do we think that DOMA is going to be repealed any time soon?

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You totally stole my next post, Alex...

The outbreak of not only violence from anti-LGBT haters at Pride, but by the police is astounding!!

diddlygrl | July 1, 2009 7:05 PM

It is kind of like "So you want to be able to get married to your same sex honey. Why? Is it so they will know who to come looking for when the camps need filling?".

I am not too sure it is a good idea to give the government a record of your "deviancy", since they can always make same sex love a crime, or worse yet, psychiatric disorder again.

You want proof? There are transexuals who are still being diagnosed as "transvetic fetishests" and being forced into aversion therapy treatment and not being allowed to transition. In some parts of the country that is the only treatment a transperson can get.

Sucks to be trans some places don't you know.

I unfortunately have had to have paperwork filed so that they can trace my "deviancy" whenever they want to. Only way to get the gender markers changed. Too bad it also gives them "proof", for when they might want to move in and show us queers our place in this world.

Rick Sours | July 1, 2009 7:09 PM

Sometimes I feel that individuals instead of looking
at themselves take their hostilities out on others.

Angela Brightfeather | July 1, 2009 9:06 PM

I'm working on heresay here, but it comes from a very reliablde source in that of Yvonne Cook Riley, past Natgional Director of IFGE, that while attending Pride in Greenville, SC this past weekend, organized gangs of religioous righters were on every assigned street corner along the parade route and anyone standing on the sidewalks of the parade route was harrassed and physically threatened by these gangs of Christian zealots.

I think that we are going to see much more of this type of thing in the future which will lead to injuries and assualts. If there is one thing that many heterosexual right wingers worng about, it is that all gay men are sissies who can[t defend themselves.

The only way to fight this type of thing in the future is to get organized to the point that volunteers are armed not with guns but with cameras, ready to roll at a moments notice when trouble starts. It's a lot harder to refute what you can actuslly see happening on a screen during the incident. If the good cops who put cameras on their vehicles to capture the bad cops who violate or overstep the law, we should get the clue and organize the same kind of protection along Pride Parade routes.

An observation camera in the front of every gay and lesbian bar would also be a good idea.

Maybe if they know we are recording their actions, people will back of a bit.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | July 1, 2009 10:02 PM

Press reports paint a bleak picture of escalating violence and. It’s anything but random.

It has clear causes. These incidents increase during political campaigns when candidates utter the usual bigotry – “gawds in the mix” or bray like Palin that we’re a threat. They surge every time the right mounts yet another assault on SSM. Pride events are often the focus for violence and bullying.

This time around there’s a familiar element. These events also reflect the unambiguous hostility of Democrats and the Obama Administration in particular. There’s a steady drumbeat of bigoty from christer and islamist clerical bigots like Warren, McClurkin and immigrant Slavic christers. Fringe groups like the Republicans incite violence by describing us as less than human, flawed, and undeserving of citizenship. Overlaying and amplifying that cacophony of hatred Democrats openly pander to bigots, cynically delay our agenda and unnecessarily defend bigot laws like Clintons DOMA and DADT. Just as they’ve always have.

People notice. Thugs notice it too, especially the ones in blue uniforms. They take their cues from White Houses' indifference and hostility.

Its clear by now that Obama is just as dangerous as Clinton or Bush were in terms of emboldening thugs. And that LGBT Democrats who backed Obama and the Democrats bungled and seriously misled. Now, many of them are changing their minds and openly breaking with the politics of riding under the bus. As quoted by a contributor at Pam’s Blend an unhappy LGBT DNC insider spells it out for us:

Q: What is the mood or tone within the DNC regarding gay rights issues?

The only thing I hear about LGBT action is in reference to not rocking the boat until after the next election.

Q: Is that 2010 or 2012?


Q: So the DNC's official stance is to keep LGBT causes under wraps?

Not the official position, but it is clear to me that that is the unofficial position.

With Democrats like that who needs Republicans.

Snowdog99 | July 14, 2009 9:25 AM

With regard to your comments on the stings in Lansing:

Homosexual men have turned Lansing's Fenner Nature Center into a veritable bathhouse. I used to each my lunch there, and was harassed on a regular basis by cruisers (and treated to rude sights on more than one occasion).

I'm glad the cops are cleaning the place up. If you want to have sex, get a room. We don't want to see perverts copulating in the park.

You Lesbian-Gay "activists" can intellectualize this issue however you like, but the bottom line is you have turned once pleasant public parks and rest areas into vile cesspools with your lack of responsible behavior. Go whine to someone who cares.