Archive for March, 2019

One thing that we know from ourstories past is that there has never been any love affair between the LGBTQ population and the cops. No matter what city or town we live in this has always been the case. From Dewey’s, to Coopers, from Comptons, to The Black Cat and on to Stonewall. From cruising  by the river side, to the tearooms and backrooms, from the parks to the drag balls, to our political demonstrations our people have never been safe. We cross their line, we are the other. The Transgender Community is more than aware of this. “How did the rising at Coopers Donuts (1959), Dewey Lunch (1965), Compton’s Cafeteria (1966), and Stonewall Inn (1969) start? With polices raids on these gathering places, many times checking patrons for three items of male clothing. In other words they were looking for trans people.  Thousands of our women and men have been arrested, their lives ruined. But still we fight back. We know we have to, our lives depend on it. Many of the people who were at the forefront of these protests were people who did not conform to established gender roles set by society which everyone was suppose to follow.

Black Cat Tavern protest Sunset Blvd. February 11, 1967. ( 1 )

In so many instances our people have fought back, trying to throw off the yokes of oppression and other times gone passively for nothing else presented its self as an alternative for that time. I am old enough now to remember both times and say thank you to those who have come before and to those who continue this fight so that more of us are no longer afraid and that we know that any attack against us by the police or others will be met by our comrades resistance.

“It wasn’t that long ago that people like me were targeted by the police for being true to ourselves. Lives were ruined, and a whole class of people were marginalized,”

This oppression isn’t new and this oppression still goes on today. Do not be fooled by those who tell you otherwise as these are the people who have way too much.  In this essay we have gleaned from other essays published on furbirdsqueerly, many updated and revised for this article. We would like to share excerpts from those articles and build a new article on a history of the interaction of the police and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer population in Hartford Connecticut and elsewhere. We have researched in back issues of the Metroline magazine and other publications, we have talked to friends and comrades. We do not pretend that these situations brought up here are the only interactions with the cops and our people as we well know many times crimes committed against the LGBTQ population are not reported. Of course we are no fools to think that police oppression, the vice squad, the politicians and others of the oppressor state are located in Hartford Ct. alone. They are everywhere as we are, the guardians of the gates waiting for us to step out of line. We know when push comes to shove that there will be two sides of the barricades our side and the side of the oppressor. Which begs the question which side will the LGBT cops be on? But here we are getting ahead of ourselves.

A bit of our stories concerning crack downs against our people:

Just about everyone in the LGBTQ population knows about the famous 20th century attempted crack downs on our people as we mentioned above. These crackdowns lead by the police were met with a fight back by many in the community and of course the cops did not expect that to happen. Well our people fought back and they showed us the way. They were a light that beckoned us “To Liberation” they cried and to liberation we went. Liberating ourselves and others, but on that road to liberation a wrong turn was taken. A turn that causes us to stop and ask, Is all inclusion, good inclusion? To this we would have to answer no. Not as long as the oppressor state continues to stand and some LGBT folks are more than willing to take part in the oppression.

Here are just a few interesting facts from ourstories put together as a collage from many sources for Part 1.

A Very Short History of Ourstories

In the late fifteenth century, as many as one in two Florentine men had come to the attention of the authorities for sodomy by the time they were thirty. In 1432 The Office of the Night was created specifically to police sodomy in Florence. Indeed, nearly all Florentine males probably had some kind of same-sex experience as a part of their “normal” sexual life. Seventy years of denunciations, interrogations, and sentencings left an extraordinarily detailed record. The men of Renaissance Florence were so renowned for sodomy that “Florenzer” in German meant “sodomite.” In the short period from April 1492 to February 1494 they convicted 44 men for homosexual relations not involving violence or aggravating circumstances. So you see folks this is nothing new. All though out ourstories we have recorded police raids on the gathering places of our people. (see note *)

Records of men meeting for sex with other men in bathhouses date back to the 15th century. A tradition of public baths dates back to the 6th century BC, and there are many ancient records of homosexual activity in Greece. In the West, gay men have been using bathhouses for sex since at least the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time when homosexual acts were illegal in most Western countries and men who were caught engaging in homosexual acts were often arrested and publicly humiliated. Men began frequenting cruising areas such as bathhouses, public parks, alleys, train and bus stations, movie theatres, public lavatories (cottages or tearooms), and gym changing rooms where they could meet other men for sex.

On February 21, 1903, NYPD conducted the first recorded raid on a gay bathhouse in the basement of the Ariston Hotel at the corner Broadway and 55th Street in New York City. 26 men were arrested and 12 brought to trial on sodomy charges; 7 men received sentences ranging from 4 to 20 years in prison. In the 1950s exclusively gay bathhouses began to open in the United States. Though subject to vice raids, these bathhouses were “oases of homosexual camaraderie” and were, as they remain today, “places where it was safe to be gay”, whether or not patrons themselves identified as homosexual. The gay baths offered a much safer alternative to sex in other public places. If you didn’t care for the baths there was always the showers at the good old YMCA.

Drag Ball Webster Hall Harlem, 1920s.

Drag balls in Harlem held at Hamilton Hall began in 1869 come under the scrutiny of the vice squad, politicians and the police. In1916 a moral reform organization known as the Committee of Fourteen periodically investigates the Drag Balls. The committee released 130 reports describing its visits and demanding that such “perversion must desist.” During this period and throughout the 1920s the police, politicians and mainstream society found themselves simply unable to suspend the ball scenes. The patrons rather than abandoning the scene fought for change and opportunity which made the ball scene unstoppable. The fight back spirit of the patrons, ball organizers and attendees against the moral reform organization, the politicians and the police allowed these balls to thrive and survive. No one cowered in fear, went away with their tails between their legs. They said no and a beautiful part of our Queer culture was formed. Important lesson When we are under attack we fight back.

In 1926 a female undercover officer entered Eve’s Hangout a speakeasy in the West Village in New York City where, “men were admitted but not welcomed.” Eve was showing her collection of short stories she was writing called Lesbian Love. Eve was arrested on the charge of disorderly conduct and for allegedly making homosexual advances toward the officer. Her manuscript along with other objectionable books was seized as obscene material. Eve was sentenced to a year in the workhouse and deported to Poland. This was a part of the police crackdown on Gay and Lesbian bars and other gathering places in 1920 New York.

1952: One Hartford judge, S. Burr Leikind, announced in June 1952 his intention to clean up all areas of the city where “sex deviates” gathered. Dozens of men were arrested for meeting at train stations and public parks, and their names were published in local newspapers. Most men at the time were not open about their gayness to their family, friends and in the workplace.

1953: The arrest of Bayard Rustin, Pasadena California: Civil Rights activist, writer, Socialist and pacifist Rustin was a key figure in the struggle for racial and social justice. A key advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement Rustin a gay man was arrested over and over in the fight for justice. In 1953 police arrested Rustin on a morals charge. He had been found having sex with another man in a parked car and jailed. He was forced out of the movement due to the stigma attached to homosexuality at the time. As plans for the 1963 March on Washington J. Edgar Hoover passed Rustin’s arrest record to Strom Thurmond, the segregationist Senator from South Carolina who declared on the Senate floor that the march was being organized by a “pervert.” Towards the end of his life Rustin gave vocal support to the gay rights movement.

1955: A sweeping investigation of a supposed “homosexual underground” in Boise, Idaho. Began with the arrest of three men in October 1955, the investigation broadened to encompass allegations that over 100 young men and teenage boys had been involved in sexual acts with a ring of adult homosexual men. By the time the investigation wound down in January 1957, some 1,500 people had been questioned, sixteen men faced charges, and fifteen of them were sentenced to terms ranging from probation to life in prison. Although framed in terms of “protecting children” from adult predators, the probe was not confined to investigating charges of men having sex with underage boys and some of those convicted and sentenced to prison were found guilty only of sexual encounters with other consenting adults.

1962: October 26, 44 people were arrested at the National Variety Artists Exotic Carnival and Ball in Manhattan. The ball drew up to 2,000 party goers. The people arrested were arrested on the sidewalks or in the lobby of the Manhattan Center. The charges were masquerading and indecent exposure. Police Commissioner Michael J. Murphy directed the arrests and as quoted in the New York Times as saying, “the most disgraceful condition of the spectacle.”

1965: A New Years Eve Ball is raided by the San Francisco police. The Council on Religion and the Homosexual, or the CRH sponsored the New Year’s Eve Ball. This group was formed in order to increase discussion between clergy and homosexuals. The organization’s goal was to promote homosexuals as belonging and being a part of mainstream society (Sides, 2009). Despite the CRH having filed the proper permits and even meeting with the sex crime department of the SFPD, problems with the police arose that night. Over 20 officers showed up blocking the intersection, photographing event attendees, and harassing them.
The publicity that followed was unprecedented and served to bring the struggles of the homosexual community to the attention of mainstream America. Press conferences and newspaper articles alike raised awareness of this event and sympathy for the LGBTQ community. This negative press was so powerful that it represented a decrease in police power. No longer were police free to harass the homosexual community; hence forward, “the SFPD stopped arresting gay men for doing ‘what was wrong’ and only arrested them for a ‘violation of the law.”

1971: 1971 Eleven members of the Kalos Society are arrested and verbally and physically abused by the police while protesting at The Park West a local “Gay” bar. Lesbians were being harassed by management for not dressing properly.

A person perceived as male who dressed in clothing customarily designed for women could technically be arrested in New York for “impersonating a female” as recently as 2011 — the remnants of a 19th century statewide law prohibiting wearing “the dress of the opposite sex.”

Haddon Township, New Jersey
1964’s Ordinance 175-10 for Indecent Dress or Exposure: “It shall be unlawful for any person to appear in any street or public place in a dress not belonging to his sex or in an indecent or lewd dress. In 2014, comedian Ben Kissel sought to overturn the law. He succeeded.

2005: “They could have been more helpful, in fact they were rather rude.” A lesbian women reported after contacting HPD about an attack near the Polo Club in Hartford left her and another women she was with black eyes, a broken cheekbone, and a broken sternum. The women added, “The police have been less than sympathetic.” A protest by the community was held.  (more on this in Part 2)

2016: Undercover police acting on a tip arrest men for public indecency, attempted sexual assault (moving a hand towards an officers crotch) and lewd conduct in Manchester Ct. and their photo’s published in the newspaper.

2019:  Two gay bars in New Orleans, The Phoenix and the Rawhide Lounge are accusing the states Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control ATC have unfairly singled them out for citations just one week before Mardi Gras. Michael Musa, Director of Operations at the Rawhide Lounge, told the Big Easy magazine the ATC imposed “numerous fines and citations and imposed regulations on how to operated, after the city’s 2018 Southern Decadence celebration. Both bars plan on attending the hearings and to fight these citations.

2019: A Lesbian police officer in Hartford reported sexual and homophobic harassment. Another women officer comes out and states that she too has been harassed. A fight back by a newly formed community group, Hartford Police Department Not Safe For Women begins. The group is made up of Lesbians, Feminists, and social justice activists in the Hartford area.

Arrested at the National Variety Artists Exotic Carnival and Ball NYC 1962

One would think that after centuries of persecution that no one would still love those who persecute you.

“You’re okay as long as you stay within the lines that we draw, as long as you are willing to wear our straight jackets and as long as you are willing to be “just like us.” If not we will arrest you or have you arrested and from then on your life will be miserable.”

Do LGBT folks love the Police?

Some do and many don’t. Ask a white middle class lesbian or gay man and they will pucker up their lips and say, “Kiss Kiss.” But ask the trans women of color on the street, trying to get by the best way that she can how much she loves the cops and she will say, “All cops are bastards.” Ask the young queer man who is demonstrating against the rise of the KKK and other right wing scum in America, who the cops just beat to the ground while the cops are forming a protective wall around the scum. Ask him and see what he will tell you. You know it all depends on where one is coming from. Instead of trying so hard to please the little white middle class goody two shoe lesbian or the gay man perhaps the approach should be towards the most vulnerable in society. Want the true pulse of the situation ask the person on the street. Go to the most vulnerable. Go to those who have the least. Their stories should be our top priority. (more…)

Confront the NATO War Makers March 30!

Demand: No War on Venezuela!

The week of March 30 to April 7 is a gathering of war makers in Washington DC. They must be opposed!
No to NATO, War & Racism! No War on Venezuela! Join a major demonstration in front of the White House on March 30
US generals and the war planners of NATO are gathering for a “Summit Meeting” April 4.

NATO is the aggressive US commanded military alliance responsible for massive death, destruction, homelessness and waves of refugees in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Syria and Libya.
At past NATO Summits of the war makers, people around the world have organized massive protests: in Chicago (2012), Wales (2014), Warsaw (2016), Brussels (2017 & 2018) There were mass protests at the Washington DC Summit to expand NATO in 1999.

Now in 2019 at this NATO Summit we must denounce NATO’s continuing wars and the coming war on Venezuela.
Join ‘No War on Venezuela’ contingents in DC at the March 16 Hands off Venezuela and the March 30 No2NATO mobilizations. We will deliver signatures on President Nicolás Maduro’s ‘Open Letter to the People of the U.S.’ directly to the White House. (more…)

Here is information about the group Hartford Police Department Not Safe For Women.

Why We Exist
HPD Not Safe For Women·Saturday, March 2, 2019

HPD Not Safe For Women·Saturday, March 2, 2019
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Hartford Police Department Not Safe for Women was born in February 2019 in direct response to City of Hartford Officer & LGBT community liaison Kelly Baerga’s sexual harassment complaint. For 9 months, she heard no updates, no reassurance, and no resolution from the Police Department, Human Resources, or the Mayor’s office.

Officer Baerga is a lesbian Latina police officer who claims she was sexually harassed over a period of time by Sgt. Andrew Rodney who is her superior and a Jamaican man. Due to all of the complicated intersections of sexism, homophobia and racism, and the fact that the victim is a police officer, has made this an issue of sexual harassment that many of the usual allies haven’t been able step up for Officer Kelly Baerga. After all, she works for and represents the very institution of patriarchy and toxic masculinity that we claim to want to destroy.
Many of us have worked in good faith to address and shift the toxic HPD workplace culture, where incidents like those graphically described in Officer Baerga’s complaint are ignored, and disappeared. As Hartford residents, we have lifetimes of stories of being mistreated by law enforcement in this city. We have heard of the “Old Boys Club” confirmed in Officer Bearga’s complaint and again in Officer Mirella Gentry’s, submitted just a few weeks later. Add to this the $180,000 pay out to Officer Renee LaMark Muir in 2017 from her 2014 sexual harassment lawsuit and we know that these aren’t isolated incidents.

Hartford is a beautiful city, filled with diverse communities of Black, brown, white, immigrant, Queer, Same Gender Loving, gender non conforming, survivor, and other communities of women who often have to decide if they can call on the HPD to keep them safe. Police leadership and officers who engender a hostile, misogynist workplace also dismiss survivors of sexual assault, sex workers experiencing abuse, families with domestic violence, and other women in our community – making our most vulnerable moments even more traumatizing. Officer Baerga is a community officer who, up until she filed her complaint, was actively recruiting Queer, Black and brown Hartford residents to the HPD with a vision of community policing that included US actually caring for US.

This sentiment doesn’t appear to be shared by many in the HPD, so we’re asking them to find employment elsewhere. OR, to commit to being a part of dynamic change.
Leadership at the HPD as well as at City Hall has to loudly and boldly make it clear through their words and behavior that harassment of any kind won’t be tolerated. At this point, we have no confidence that current leadership has the ability to do this. There is a pattern that needs to be broken, and we intend to break it.