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Gay Activists Ousted and Barred from Fort Worth City Council Meeting

Gay Activists Ousted and Barred from Fort Worth City Council Meeting

Members of the gay rights group Queer LiberAction were thrown out of the Fort Worth City Council meeting Tuesday night. The activists were responding and seeking answers regarding the gay raid of Rainbow Lounge on June 28th, where one man suffered serious injury.

The Fort Worth City Council ousted members of the gay rights group Queer LiberAction Tuesday, who were there demanding answers to the city's police department's aggressive raid on the gay bar, the Rainbow Lounge, on June 28th, where one man suffered serious injury.

Both the Fort Worth Police Department and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission are investigating the details of the Rainbow Lounge incident.

The incident was placed last on the agenda for the Fort Worth Community Forum on June 30th, and once again it was last on the agenda for the City Council meeting, upsetting activists and community members.

Blake Wilkinson, leader of Queer LiberAction, stood up and asked to express that those in attendance wanting to discuss the Rainbow Lounge raid should not have to wait until the end of the meeting, considering the overwhelming turnout of people wanting answers about the incident. Mayor Moncrief responded that public comments always come last on the agenda.

Nicki Kerksieck, a member of Queer LiberAction and one of the people escorted out of the meeting, feels that “continual placing of the Rainbow Lounge Raid matter at the end of agendas clearly sends a symbolic message that LGBT related issues were being placed where the City of Fort Worth officials believed they belonged –- at the end or ‘at the back of the bus’.”

Wilkinson continued to make his request throughout the meeting until Corbin Bates, Daniel Cates, Jason Williams and Joe Remsik came through the doors while chanting “hear us now,” before immediately being pulled by police and ordered to leave. The group listened to what the officers had to say, then continued chanting on their way back out of the meeting using the entrance on the other side of the courthouse.

Shortly thereafter, Wilkinson was also escorted out and told to leave the property. Kerksieck was also escorted out because of her outspoken words in conjunction with Wilkinson. Those who were asked to leave then went to gather signs and flags and stood on the sidewalk continuing to chant while the meeting ensued.

Several hours later, at 10:30 pm, Rainbow Lounge was moved towards the top of the agenda, but those outside were not allowed back inside. "Not even for a drink of water," said Williams, Queer LiberAction Publicity Leader, explaining that the group was not allowed reentry at any cost.

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Most of the group had carpooled to the meeting and their rides were all still inside. As people left the meeting after their topics were covered, police escorted each person all the way out of the building, past the group outside.

Williams said they met a closeted policewoman afraid to come out in the Fort Worth Police Department “for fear that she won’t get backup when needed but was very supportive” of their message, even encouraging them to continue their actions.

They met an openly gay policeman who was also agreed with the objective, and hopes for health benefits for same-sex city workers, as all of Texas’ other major cities grant them now.

The Rainbow Lounge topic comments did not end until 1:00 am. City officials noted that the TABC’s investigation should be complete prior to the investigation of the Fort Worth Police Department and that they do not want to rush that investigation. Officials feel it's more important to conduct a thorough and accurate investigation as opposed to a quick conclusion, they said.

Kerksieck also emphasized a point was made at the pre-council meeting that Sarah Straten, 17-year veteran of the police department, was to be the liaison to the LGBT community – the purpose of such appointment being to provide diversity, education and training to ensure sensitivity to LGBT issues and needs. Kerksieck does “not see any reason why city officials would not have already consulted with Sarah concerning how to best handle matters related to the Rainbow Lounge Raid.” The placement of the incident on the agenda should have “stuck out like a sore thumb as an important and symbolic message,” she added.

“Speaking out is what democracy-in-action is all about. We cannot keep our city officials in check if we quietly sit by on the sidelines,” Kerksieck says about the importance of the groups actions. “Actively participating and speaking out to government officials is a necessary part of sending them a message of what changes are needed. After all, our current efforts to secure LGBT rights is not a campaign, it is a civil rights movement.”

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Boo Jarchow