Most residents of Fort Worth have never even seen the inside of a gay bar. Fort Worth's police chief Jeff Halstead is counting on that fact—counting on the average person's ignorance about gay bars and certain stereotypes about gay men—to get a half a dozen Forth Worth police officers off the hook for conducting a violent raid on a Forth Worth gay bar, the Rainbow Lounge, late last Saturday night. Seven men were arrested during the raid, which took place on the 40th anniversary of the raid on the Stonewall Inn that kick-started the modern gay rights movement, and one of those men—Chad Gibson—remains in intensive care with a brain injury. Gibson may not survive.

The officers who raided the Rainbow Lounge claim that the men in the bar made "advances" on them—and Forth Worth's police chief is backing them up:

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."

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Allow me to translate the chief's comments: "Them faggots in that thar bar touched mah officers and now they're complainin' about some rough stuff and one little ol' faggot with a brain injury? Those perverts should be grateful they're alive."

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.

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.

Some will say that this was just an ill-timed raid on a gay bar in Texas, of all places, one that got out of control. So what's the big deal? But this is exactly the kind of state-sponsored violence that gays and lesbians fought back against at Stonewall 40 years ago. Gay men all over the country are going to have to speak up and defend the patrons of the Rainbow Lounge. We can't allow the chief of police in Fort Worth to use the Gay Panic Defense or exploit stereotypes about gay men—so sexually reckless that they can't even keep their hands off cops during a raid!—to get away with violating the civil rights of gay men in Fort Worth or murdering Chad Gibson.

UPDATE: More on Chad Gibson's condition:

ac33/1246404201-gibson.jpgChad Gibson, the 26-year-old Fort Worth resident who wound up in John Peter Smith Hospital in the intensive care unit after a law enforcement raid on a gay bar over the weekend, remains in danger with a blood clot on his brain. Dallas Voice senior editor Tammye Nash reports on the newspaper's blog, Instant Tea, that Gibson's sister, Kristy Morgan, told her a CAT scan had revealed the blood clot has quit growing, but it is still considered a life-threatening situation. Until the clot dissolves, there is a danger that the clot could break off and cause severe brain damage or death. A rupture of the clot could also start bleeding again.

The blood clot could take from six months to two years to dissolve, according to the update. Gibson, shown in a picture from facebook.com, will likely remain in the hospital for the rest of the week and will be referred to a neurosurgeon for follow-up treatment. Surgery is reportedly not being considered at this time.

Discussion is under way about the establishment of a medical fund to assist Gibson. His hospital bill will undoubtedly be enormous, and it is unlikely that he will ever recover any of those medical expenses from the City of Fort Worth. Police officers and other government employees are protected by state law from liability in any legal action that arises in connection with the performance of their official duties, unless they are involved in misconduct or broke laws.

UPDATE 2: Someone needs to put this follow-up question to Fort Worth's police chief:

If Chad Gibson—the 160-pound, 26-year-old gay man that it took five of your officers to subdue—groped one of your officers, and if it was Gibson's lewd action that caused your officers to go absolutely apeshit, then surely Gibson—who is in an intensive care unit and may not survive his injuries—was charged with assault, right?

Wrong:

Officers then went to the Rainbow Lounge, which had opened about a week ago. They encountered two drunk people who made "sexually explicit movements" toward officers and another who grabbed a TABC agent's groin, according to the police report.

No one was arrested for assault but about half a dozen people were arrested on charges of public intoxication, according to police records. Police Chief Jeff Halstead said Gibson was the patron who grabbed at the agent's groin.

So... Chad Gibson sexually assaulted a Fort Worth police officer and, according to the Fort Worth's chief of police, Gibson's assault not only prompted but justified the actions of his officers at the Rainbow Room, but... Gibson wasn't charged with assault.

Can someone please ask the chief of police to explain how that works?

UPDATE 3: Via Slog commenter jasonzenobia: The Fort Worth Police Department's email address is fwpdweb@fortworthpd.com and the number for FWPD's internal affairs office is 817.392.4270. That's the number to call to report officer misconduct. Joel Burns is the openly gay member of the Fort Worth city council and he's been all over this. You can reach him at his email is Joel.Burns@fortworthgov.org.

UPDATE 4: I've heard from folks in Fort Worth that Joel Burns' office is being slammed with furious phone calls and emails about the raid on the Rainbow Lounge and the assault on Chad Gibson. Burns, however, has taken action on this and has called for an investigation and is doing everything an openly-gay elected official is supposed to do in a circumstance like this. If you're itching to send an outraged emails, Sloggers, I'd urge you to send emails to the six Fort Worth councilmembers who haven't joined with Burns and two of his colleagues in calling for a full and independent investigation into the appalling raid on the Rainbow Lounge.

Councilmember W.B. "Zim" Zimmerman
817-392-8803
District3@fortworthgov.org

Councilmember Danny Scarth
817-392-8804
District4@fortworthgov.org

Councilmember Frank Moss
817-392-8805
District5@fortworthgov.org

Councilmember Jungus Jordan
817-392-8806
District6@fortworthgov.org

Councilmember Carter Burdette
817-392-8807
District7@fortworthgov.org

And send an email to the mayor, Mike Moncreif, who has yet to make a statement:

Mayor Mike Moncrief
817-392-6118
mike.moncrief@fortworthgov.org

Tell them the whole country is shocked and outraged and that you're appalled by their failure to join their colleagues Joel Burns, Sal Espino, and Kathleen Hicks in calling for an investigation into the raid on the Rainbow Lounge and the assault on Chad Gibson.