Monday, June 27, 2011



Just minutes after the historic vote legalizing gay marriage in the state of New York, NYC police launched an operation that can only be viewed as an act of harrassment and intimidation against a major New York gay leather bar, the Eagle.

Police officers and agents from the New York Police Department and three other agencies, including the State Liquor Authority, arrived shortly after the state Senate's vote as patrons were celebrating the results of the hard-fought battle in Albany. Police reportedly turned off the bar’s lights. They then shined flashlights in patron’s faces and demanded that some of patrons empty their pockets.

According to police, the inspection was one of four previously planned operations carried out as part of a program called MARCH (multiagency response to community hot spots), but Manhattan borough president Scott M. Stringer said what went on at this particular bar on West 28th Street was akin to a raid.

Stringer acknowledged that such inspections weren’t unusual, but said “I think this one was ill-conceived and ill-timed given the circumstances surrounding the marriage equality celebration, on Pride week.”

The visit reportedly led to six violations being issued. One of the charges, unbelievably, was for "Unnecessary noise." What the fuck? It's a big bar, and bars play loud music, and crowds were celebrating both as part of the annual Gay Pride Weekend and as a result of the vote.

“I definitely lost money last night because they made patrons wait outside in a line down the block,” the bar’s owner, Robert Berk, 50, told The New York Times. “I don’t know how much I have to pay, but it’s enough to matter.”

Christopher J. Borras, 46, who was among those waiting to get in when the officers arrived, called the inspection “a blatant sign of intimidation and harassment. I mean, 42 years after the Stonewall riots and we still have to live in fear of the police disturbing our quiet enjoyment of life? I just don’t understand. We are very peaceful.”

Police defended the action, saying that it had been planned "for weeks," and that they couldn't be held responsible for the timing of the Albany vote. But one wonders exactly how dumb New York Police have to be to schedule such a raid on Gay Pride weekend and think that it wouldn't be interpreted as "harrassment and intimidation." Nor was the timing of the Albany vote any unforeseeable secret. It was clear through Thursday and Friday, indeed most of the week, that the vote would go down to the wire. Any intelligent administrator in the police department might have considered the bad-timing of the raid action, especially given the very minor nature of the charges used to justify it: checking ice machines for cleanliness, checking licenses of the bar's security personnel, and the ridiculous "unnecesssary noise."

Frankly, the police department should count themselves fortunate that they didn't have another "Stonewall Rebellion" on their hands. But then, I'm not sure the NY leather community has done itself any honor here, either.

No comments: