Paying the Piper
Static is no stranger to large bar tabs. But the Fort Worth Police and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission should really think about the one they’ve run up. In this case, they should stop hanging out at gay bars — it’s costing the city a fortune.
On Tuesday, the Fort Worth City Council approved a $400,000 settlement to Chad Gibson and George Armstrong. Gibson suffered a head injury and Armstrong a torn rotator cuff during the raid of The Rainbow Lounge almost two years ago. The men said that officers used excessive force against them.
Investigations by the police and TABC concluded that no excessive force was used, and yet the settlement was approved without debate. City staff said they recommended the settlement to avoid time-consuming and costly litigation. Apparently, forking over almost half a million dollars — in a year of severe budget crunches — to a man whom police said fell on his head while handcuffed and vomiting is not an admission of liability. The TABC is considering a similar settlement.
Gibson was one of seven patrons charged with public intoxication that evening, although the charges against him were later dropped. Police and TABC officers said they were harassed by drunken patrons who, among other things, dry-humped them as they tried to carry out the “inspection.”
The Rainbow raid, occurring as it did on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the historic Stonewall protests in New York, led to massive protests and all kinds of unwanted media attention for Fort Worth. Three TABC employees lost their jobs over the June 2009 incident and several Fort Worth police officers were suspended.
The Stonewall actions, in which gays and lesbians protested harassment by police, began the modern gay rights movement. Forty years later in Fort Worth, protests over similar charges of harassment here may have opened up new lines of communication between gay citizens and police, if not exactly beginning a new era. Gibson and Armstrong may indeed be due the money, but it was a bill the city didn’t need — that money could have gone for library services or reopening public swimming pools.
All snark aside, the city knows that something went wrong that night. Almost every patron at the Rainbow Lounge told the same story of police brutality and homophobia. If denying culpability while shelling out settlement money is the city’s way of saving face, Static is not impressed.