Reporting from Fort Worth -- Todd Camp and some friends had just marked the 40th anniversary of the police raid on New York's Stonewall Inn by screening a documentary on the historic gay riots and then heading for drinks at the Rainbow Lounge.Police first said Gibson harmed himself, then said an officer reacted because Gibson groped his crotch in the jam-packed bar. But other witnesses and now Mr. Gibson are telling a very different story. As the Dallas News dryly described the contradiction: "Police initially said Gibson had injured himself when he fell and hit his head. That contradicted witnesses who said police slammed him into the wall and floor and aggressively tackled several other patrons who were arrested that night."
Camp remembered looking across the bar, packed with gay and some straight couples, and marveling how much times had changed since Stonewall -- the spark that ignited the gay rights movement.
And then the police came.
"No one knew what was happening," said Camp, founder of the Q Cinema gay film festival in Fort Worth. "All I could think was, 'It's Stonewall all over again, and we can't do anything about it.' "
Seven officers from the Fort Worth Police Department and two agents from the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission clashed with about 300 bar patrons in the early hours of June 28, reviving an ancient dread that even this conservative Texas city had thought long past.
Seven people were arrested, and witnesses said one man had his head slammed into a door by law enforcement officials. Chad Gibson, 26, was hospitalized with a brain injury and released Saturday.
"It was strange that all this happened on that night of all nights," said Mark Potok, a director at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama. "If it was a simple mistake, then it was a very, very foolish one."
Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead defended his officers, saying they entered a hostile environment and were taunted by patrons with "sexually explicit movements."
I have no idea if Fort Worth police and TABC officers knew that evening was the anniversary of the infamous Stonewall riot in New York City, much less if any of them consciously viewed their actions as making some kind of statement about that notorious anniversary. But I don't blame Rainbow Lounge patrons (or others in DFW's large gay community) for leaping to that obvious connection.
For those who want more details, The Dallas Voice has really been earning its keep on this story, publishing eyewitness accounts and also blogging up a storm, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.