NAACP slams District harassment of gay businesses
The Metropolitan Police & Criminal Justice Review Task Force
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
District of Columbia Branch
1000 "U" Street, N.W., Suite #100
Washington, D.C. 20001

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: July 9, 1997
Contact: Mark Thompson (202) 217-9288
or Rick Rosendall (202) 667-5139

NAACP Task Force Slams Regulatory Harassment of Gay Businesses

A broad-based task force organized by the DC Branch of the NAACP has called on DC Mayor Marion Barry to put an end to what it calls the regulatory harassment of gay-owned and gay-oriented businesses in the District. The Metropolitan Police & Criminal Justice Review Task Force, organized in the spring of 1997 to advance home rule and civil rights concerns in the areas of public safety and criminal justice, includes representatives from such groups as the ACLU - National Capital Area, the National Black Police Association, the National Lawyers Guild, the Drug Policy Foundation, and the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington.

In a three-page letter to Barry, task force facilitator Mark Thompson details the recent history of abuse by police, fire officials, and inspectors from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), including:

As a first step toward correcting the abuse, Thompson called on the Mayor to instruct DCRA chief Hampton Cross to call off a pending administrative hearing against the Crew Club, a gay men's health club near 14th and Rhode Island Avenue NW. After Barry received the letter from Thompson, the DCRA hearing was postponed from July 15 until September only delaying a proper reckoning for the District's pattern of regulatory discrimination.

As Thompson wrote to the Mayor: "We cannot afford to divert precious time, money, and personnel to such regulatory harassment particularly when real problems like unsafe streets, crack houses, unsafe drinking water and crumbling schools continue to plague our city."

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The Metropolitan Police & Criminal Justice Review Task Force
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
District of Columbia Branch
1000 "U" Street, N.W., Suite #100
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202)319-9358 (voice)
(202)462-6115 (fax)

Tuesday, July 1, 1997

Mayor Marion Barry
Executive Office of the Mayor
One Judiciary Square
Washington, DC 20001

Dear Mayor Barry:

We are writing to express our concern about an ongoing campaign of regulatory abuse by multiple District agencies directed against the city's gay-owned and gay-oriented businesses, and to ask you to put an end to it. In a number of cases, police have stormed businesses in 1950s-style raids, operating on unfounded anonymous tips from area residents. They have often been accompanied by inspectors from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). The disproportionate targeting of gay establishments has demonstrated a de facto anti-gay double standard, as well as a failure to establish sensible priorities for the use of scarce government resources during a fiscal crisis. As the first step toward correcting this, we ask that you instruct DCRA chief Hampton Cross to call off the July 15 administrative hearing against the Crew Club.

Allow us to provide some background:

In response to these and similar incidents, our colleagues in the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance ran an advertising campaign in April and May in several local newspapers protesting the city's discriminatory enforcement policies. This was followed by a post card campaign directed to you as Mayor. Since the ad and mail campaigns were launched — and as the Crew Club began organizing its own response — your staff in the Office of the Ombudsman have assured us that the matter has their attention and that they were attempting to arrange a meeting between you and representatives of the Gay and Lesbian Business Guild. Unfortunately, no such meeting has taken place, and no communication has been made to Mr. Cross at DCRA to call off the administrative hearing against the Crew Club, which is still scheduled for July 15. The city's campaign against the Crew Club, which has been a leader in HIV- and safe-sex education efforts by the local business community, has already had a chilling effect on such efforts.

The city's important regulatory duties are no excuse for harassing responsible, tax-generating businesses that serve the District's gay residents and visitors. Continued abuse can only be prevented by establishing clear guidelines and priorities for regulatory and enforcement personnel. As Mayor, it falls to you to get the organs of our government in line — in particular, to ensure that zealots like Mr. Delgado understand the principle of equal protection under the law.

We cannot afford to divert precious time, money, and personnel to such regulatory harassment — particularly when real problems like unsafe streets, crack houses, unsafe drinking water and crumbling schools continue to plague our city. Considering our city's dwindling tax base, we ought to be attracting more revenue-generating business to our city, not driving it away. We urge you to stop the pending DCRA action against the Crew Club, and to take the necessary steps to ensure that the District government corrects its priorities and provides proper supervision and guidance to its officers and investigators to ensure that they are truly carrying out the people's business and not their own private agendas.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We know that you share our concern for the safety and freedom of all of the District's residents, and we look forward to continue working with you toward that end.

Respectfully,

Mark Thompson,
Task Force Facilitator

cc: Larry Soulsby
Hampton Cross
John Hill
D.C. Councilmembers
D.C. Allen

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All rights reserved. GLAA, P.O. Box 75265, Washington, DC 20013