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Federal Suit Tackles Police Gay-Bashing

Lawyers for a North Side Gay man, Kentin Waits, will file suit today against the City of Chicago, the head of the City’s Office of Professional Standards and individual police officers to counter a Gay-bashing by police at the Belmont and Western police station last July 23. Following a minor altercation with an officer the previous day, police swarmed on Waits’s home the following morning, took him to the station and physically attacked him and called him “faggot” and other anti-Gay epithets.

The filing of the suit will be the subject of a press conference at 11 a.m., Thursday, May 31 in the lobby of the Dirksen Federal Building, 219 S. Dearborn Street, Chicago. On hand to discuss the case will be Mr. Waits, his lawyer Jon Loevy of the firm Loevy & Loevy, and representatives of the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network (CABN), a Gay liberation organization acting as an advocate for Waits.

“The rudeness and arrogance of many Chicago police officers is legendary,” said Andy Thayer, co-founder of CABN. “Waits’s reaction to that rudeness on the day before the attack at the police station was inappropriate, and he’s said as much, but the response with a police raid the following morning was completely over the top. This overreaction was then compounded with a physical attack right in the Belmont and Western police headquarters.

“Most disturbing of all is the fact that officers felt confident enough in their invulnerability that they would commit this crime in a station swarming with other cops, including supervisors, and that nothing would happen to punish them.”

On Saturday, July 22nd Waits was driving near the intersection of Irving Park Road and Ashland Avenue following a Cubs game. After being verbally berated and sworn at by an officer for attempting to make a turn, Waits squirted the officer with a water squirt bottle and drove off. The next morning, Sunday, Waits was awoken by seven cops with squad cars surrounding his apartment building and was led off in handcuffs. One of the police told Waits that his truck was towed and impounded, and that he “was sorry for the damage.”

On the way to the 19th District Belmont and Western police station, one officer threatened Waits by asking if he had “heard all of those stories about police officers beating the shit out of punks.” At the station two cops purposely slammed Waits into doors and walls, and then led him to an interview room where the window to the hallway was papered over to prevent observation from outside.

After handcuffing Waits’s wrists to the wall of the interview room, one of the cops slapped Waits’s face and head several times and kneed him in the genitals. One of the cops then released one of Waits’s wrists from handcuffs, and with the other still attached to the wall, asked if he was “ready to fight,” and began to taunt him as a “faggot” and other anti-Gay slurs. One of the officers then re-shackled Waits’s completely to the wall of the interrogation room and asked Waits if he was Gay. When Waits asked how this was relevant, the cop responded, “I knew you were a fag.”

Waits was finally released at 8:30 a.m., Monday, July 24 after being held in custody 22 hours. During that entire time he was denied food, and despite his repeated requests, was refused medical care for a serious condition.

Waits’s suit comes in the wake of a flurry of Gay-bashings by Chicago-area law enforcement, including those of Terry Phalen, Frederick Mason, Jr., and Jeffrey Lyons. Mason’s and Lyons’s cases were the focal point of a February 2001 Amnesty International report on police gay-bashing, the first such report of its kind in the United States.

“Until the Mayor and the upper echelons of the police brass begin to take hate attacks committed by its officers seriously, suits like this will become more and more common,” said Bob Schwartz, a member of CABN’s Coordinating Committee. “When the City fails to discipline bigoted cops who act out on their hatred, when States Attorney Dick Devine fails to criminally prosecute them, the message they send to haters on the beat is that attacking minorities is okay. Unfortunately, the dominate police culture is that it’s acceptable to physically attack African-Americans, Latinos, Gays and other minorities, and City will allow you to keep your job and you are virtually immune from criminal prosecution. We will not rest until we see justice in these cases.”

At 12 noon this Saturday, June 2, CABN will be participating with some 37 other organizations in a large March Against Police Brutality & Racism, beginning at Touhy Park (Clark Street, ½ block south of Jarvis, 7200 N./1750 W.). A central focus of the march will be the failure of Dick Devine to criminally prosecute corrupt and brutal police officers. For more information about either Waits’s case or the march, please call CABN at 773.878.3697 or 773.878.4781, or e-mail at CABNstopthehate@aol.com. Questions about Waits’s case can also be referred to his lawyer, Jon Loevy, at 312.274.1700.



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