Sorry, comments were down for a while for no reason I can find on this post. They're back up. Also, updated after the jump.
This is fairly ridiculous:
City prosecutors in Fort Worth, Texas, announced on February 24 that they would press charges against two patrons of the Rainbow Lounge Gay bar who were injured in a police raid last June.
Chad Gibson suffered a severe brain injury while in police custody that kept him hospitalized for a week. Officers said he fell and hit his head while handcuffed. He said he was injured when officers slammed him against a wall inside the bar.
Gibson is being charged with "public intoxication" and "assaulting a state agent."
When you think about it, it makes sense. You see, the police investigated themselves, and, surprisingly, found no evidence of police violence. In fact, contrary to what witnesses at the raid have been saying and to what the victim says, Chad Gibson wasn't hurt by police; he just fell down at the exact same moment the police were raiding the bar and arresting him. You know that Chad, always a klutz!
So when you acknowledge the fact that the police didn't do any wrong here (because the police said so), you have to wonder if maybe Chad, in his drunkenness, may have hurt them. Remember, the police said that the raid was justified because all the gay men at the Rainbow Lounge lost control and started groping them? Gays just can't keep their hands to themselves, and that makes police officers panic. Gays should know better.
Now, I'm supposing that's their reasoning behind the "assaulting a state agent" charge. As Dan Savage pointed out last year, gay panic was basically their defense.
And you'll never guess who the police are accusing of being the groper: Chad Gibson, the one man arrested at the Rainbow Lounge who can't defend himself and may never be able to give his side of the story. But another person at the bar witnessed Gibson's arrest:
"They were hyped up. They were loaded for bear," said Todd Camp, a veteran journalist who was there celebrating his birthday with friends. "They were just randomly grabbing people, telling them they were drunk."
Camp told me he has been in bars during TABC/police "checks" before, "and it was never anything like this." Usually, he said, officers discreetly walk through, looking for anybody who has had too much. This was different. "They were shoving patrons," Camp said, "asking, 'How much have you had to drink?'"
"[Gibson] was taken down hard," said Camp, with "four or five" officers wrestling him to the floor inside the club. Cellphone photos shot by patrons and posted to blogs show a person being held facedown by officers in a short hallway inside the club, then show a dent in the wall where his head was apparently banged.
The police claim that Gibson wasn't injured when those four or five cops slammed him to the floor of the bar, but after his arrest, when, drunk and handcuffed, Gibson somehow fell and hit his head on the pavement outside the bar.
All of this is bullshit.
I've been in a million gay bars. I've been in gay bars on multiple occasions when the police came in to check everyone's IDs and make sure no minors were being served. Gay men don't grope police officers when they enter gay bars. I find it inconceivable that the gay men drinking in the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth responded to a raid by attempting to grope the police officers. This "they groped us!" shit is a lie. As the owner of the bar, J.R. Schrock, put it at the protest the night after the raid:
"The groping of the police officer--really? We're gay, but we're not dumb," Schrock said to the crowd that gathered at the bar Sunday afternoon. "That is a lie, and I am appalled by it."
Jeff Halstead can't be allowed to use the Gay Panic Defense. His officers weren't groped, no one was "touched and advanced." Homophobic cops raided a gay bar, roughed up the patrons, and a young man is in the hospital and may die.
Well, he didn't die, and now he's being charged for attacking the police officers.
And "public intoxication"? Maybe the lawyers reading can explain that one further, but is it really illegal to be drunk in a bar? Remember that the TABC already found that there was no probable cause for the raid.
But if it is illegal to be drunk in a bar in Texas, something tells me that that's not a charge that gets enforced across the board. I'm guessing there have been straight people in bars before who were drunk and who didn't get arrested.
The one good thing that will come out of prosecution, though, is an independent review of the police officers' actions at the Rainbow Lounge. There hasn't been an independent investigation, and I'm hoping that the defendants don't plea out and turn this into a trial of the police instead of the other way around.
No matter what they say about Gibson, they're the ones who entered a bar and got violent. Someone should investigate that.
Update: Reader Christopher emails this to me in response to my question above. Apparently, it is illegal to drink in a bar in Texas:
They say everything's bigger in Texas, and that includes absurdity in law enforcement. Most states and towns have public intoxication laws that allow peace officers to pick up the drunk and disorderly. But in the Lone Star State, the nation's broadest PI law lets cops go virtually anywhere and arrest anyone for drunkenness--even if they're quietly nursing a beer in a bar.
Arrested for drinking in a bar? Sounds like the ultimate catch-22. Since 2006, when Texas overtook California as the state with the most drunk-driving fatalities, cops and a beefed-up task force from the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission have used a 1993 law as a pretext to enter any bar and arrest its patrons on the spot. The public intoxication standard, backed by the Texas-based Mothers Against Drunk Driving, is so broad that you can be arrested on just a police officer's hunch, without being given a Breathalyzer or field sobriety test. State courts have not only upheld the practice but expanded the definition of public intoxication to cover pretty much any situation, says Robert Guest, a criminal defense attorney in Dallas. "Having no standard allows the police to arrest whoever pisses them off and call it PI," he says, adding, "If you have a violent, homophobic, or just an asshole of a cop and you give him the arbitrary power to arrest anyone for PI, you can expect violent, homophobic, and asshole-ic behavior."
For some officers, PI has provided a ready-made reason for detaining minorities. A Houston defense attorney, who asks to be unnamed since he specializes in misdemeanors such as PI, puts it this way: "If you're brown and you're around--you're going down." Nick Novello, a 27-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, blew the whistle on three colleagues who he claims filled their arrest quotas by picking up people, mostly minorities, for PI. "They were illegally arrested," Novello says. "It's an absolute perversion." (Two were removed from the force.)
Sounds like a great policy.