|Ruby Deluxe owner Tim Lemuel.|
The ongoing protests over police brutality have underscored something that I have believed for a long time: America's police departments have a serious problem of officers who should never been hired because of their bigotry and/or a mindset where they feel free to abuse the citizens who they are supposed to protect. Sadly, most internal affairs offices are far more focused on protecting officers than weeding out the bad apples - something I learned first hand after I filed a complaint against Norfolk police officers years ago (before phones had video options) for anti-gay harassment and mistreatment I experienced. Obviously, better screening of applicants is needed as is a thorough review of existing officer ranks to rid them of bullies and bigots. Perhaps too, strict liability for chiefs of police for the misdeeds of their officers might make the department leadership finally stop protecting those who should not wear a badge and carry a gun. A piece in The Advocate looks at a case of police brutality in North Carolina where police shot at a bar owner while on his own business premises. Here are story highlights:
Over the weekend, police targeted a queer bar in North Carolina amid ongoing protests across the nation following the death of George Floyd.
According to The News and Observer, Tim Lemuel, owner of the bar Ruby Deluxe in Raleigh, North Carolina, discovered on Sunday evening the bar had been vandalized with a white supremacist symbol and that the doors and windows were broken.
The next day, he and his staff showed up to protect the building from more damage as protests continued in downtown Raleigh.
Lemuel and his staff had set up a first aid station in the parking lot to treat peaceful protestors who had gotten injured. They also handed out water bottles and light snacks to the near 1,000 people who took to the streets.
According to Lemuel, they had been doing this work for almost seven hours without interruption from authorities when law enforcement approached them with weapons.
In video that has since gone viral, an officer can be heard screaming at Lemuel, “Move! Move!” to which Lemuel yells back, “This is my business. I rent this place. I rent here!”
The group of officers didn’t stop. As they kept approaching, wielding their guns, one screams out, “You’ve been told!” followed by, “I don’t care where you go, you gotta go!”
Two shots were then fired, after which the officer yells, “Move! The game is over. Get out!”
[W]e weren’t chanting. We weren’t yelling. We weren’t gesturing to them. There was nothing that we were doing to instigate a response like that."
According to Lemuel and Varani, the deputies had been watching them for hours but chose not to approach them or express any concerns until the moment they pulled out their weapons.
Lemuel later took to Facebook in response to a heated discussion on Reddit about the situation. “I own a business," he wrote. "I was there during normal operating hours. I was on my lot and kept my friends contained within the lot. We had been there for 7 hours. The deputy sheriffs could have, at any point, come over to see what we were doing or voiced their concern. This basically sums up the reason folks are mad. No thought what-so-ever [was] put into the decision to come at us guns blazing.
“I also think they had no business using riot control cs, tear gas, firing foam batons, or whatever blanks they fired," he continued. "I was out the day before and witnessed so many officers shooting grenades at civilian's chests and heads.
When the video hit the Internet, city council members were quick to disavow the act — including council member Saige Martin, one of two out LGBTQ+ people elected to the council last year.
“It is a safe space for so many people,” Martin the Observer of Ruby. “It is a home to queer folks. For the response to be the game is over? When I heard that, it made the hair on my body stand up.”
Martin added that the experience reminded him of “Black and brown trans and queer bodies that started the queer liberation movement in New York in Stonewall,” adding, “We are still dealing with those same issues for those same people today. And hearing those words echo so aggressively as if there was a game to be had? I think (it) speaks perfectly well to the kind of culture and thinking that exists and pervades law enforcement today.”
Raleigh city council member Nicole Stewart was also distraught at the situation, telling the Observer, "Had it been anybody, it would have been bad enough. The idea that it was an individual, a business owner, trying to help other individuals in our community made it that much more startling. And I couldn’t let it sit.” Stewart has called on police chief Cassandra Deck-Brown to investigate the incident.The country has a very real problem with a toxic segment of its police personnel. The bigots and those too ready to use violence need to be removed and never allowed to wear a badge again.