A Newspaper Must Shine a Light on the Dark Side

Last week, an important one for our newspaper, we published an SFGN special report exposing the unethical conduct of the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, unjustly and unlawfully targeting gays for arrest in public parks.

Our two-year investigation revealed their offensive five-year operation, which entrapped and induced otherwise innocent gay man into engaging in purportedly unlawful acts.  Because so many of those arrested on lewd act charges find it easier to cop a plea than stand their ground and fight, many of these cases are now sealed, closed, and expunged. While that is fortunate for the victims who were humiliated by cops, it is unfortunate for the public, because the records exposing the misconduct are not rightfully accessible. Expedience dictated it, but expedience is a traitor to the truth.

 

We hire cops to uphold and enforce the law, not to break it. Most Americans want to treat their law enforcement officers with reverence and respect. When your life is in danger, when you face a threat, you call for a cop. You count on them to be there during times of distress. There are many more social services they quietly perform as well. Police perform these tasks at great risk to themselves.  But whom do you call when you can’t call the cops?

Recognizing the injustice done to gays in public parks, SFGN has launched CAFA, ‘Citizens Against False Arrest.’ On our website, falsearrests.org, we have begun to post a collection of stories from decent people across this country, who have been unjustly arrested and wrongly prosecuted. Gay or straight, black or white, young or old, this site represents a collage and cross section of official misconduct. If you believe you were such a victim, and have a story to tell, we want to hear from you. On the site, at www.falsearrests.org, there is a place for you to vent.

Last year, cops raided Johnny’s Bar in Fort Lauderdale, going so far as arresting one bartender because he served someone under 21 a glass of water. Over decades of time, we have seen the gay community too often become the target of homophobic law enforcement. Those days have to end. That is why CAFA has to start. If you are the victim of bullying physically or a battering verbally, and law enforcement played a part in it, you now have a voice on the Internet, where you can upload your tale and tell others.

Obviously, the world is changing for the better. Go to a gay pride rally in many cities and you will see police recruiters soliciting for gay officers. Look at our paper and you will see that Broward County’s sheriff, Al Lamberti, is recruiting for officers by advertising in SFGN. Last week, he used discretionary law enforcement funds to make a generous donation to Broward House, a wonderful AIDS agency. We can be proud about what is happening, but we must be on guard and watchful nevertheless.

Candidly, we sought to write more about CAFA this week, but our staff was backlogged with finalizing and designing our quarterly magazine, which went to press last night. Re-named “The Mirror,” it will be distributed at our second anniversary party this coming week, next Monday, at J Mark’s in Fort Lauderdale, from 6 p.m. to 8 pm. While it is a celebration for us, and a thank you to our advertisers, our readers are invited. All we ask is that you bring at least a ten-dollar donation to help support the good and noble work of Tuesday’s Angels.

For the past few years, the LGBT community has obviously been more visible. But what have we learned in becoming more open? Stories of bullying have come out of the closet. Many teen suicides, we are learning, evolve out of young men scared to embrace their sexuality. Our fight for equal rights against discrimination in the workplace is still being fought in congressional and legislative chambers.  Athletes as well as entertainers, surprisingly, are told to stay in the closet. My answer to that is ‘No!’

A newspaper’s duty is to do more than put on the front page a businessman whose entrepreneurial venture has been a Popsicle licking success. We applaud the Antonio Dumas’s of the world who have done so much to put the LGBT community in a positive light. Of course, we are delighted to showcase our hometown and our friends. Our newspaper will illuminate our lives and applaud our successes, from the businessmen forging a new dream to charitable Smart Rides bringing hope to those in need.

However, our purpose must be to shine a light on the dark side of injustice. That is what a newspaper does, and must continue to do. And you can’t do it all online or on an iPad. There are many of us who have been wronged. Many are gone, but their memory is not forgotten.  Our work is still not done, and this newspaper’s commitment to you is to confront the dishonesty, expose the lies, and print the truth. We will all be stronger for it.

FROM THE INTERNET: www.falsearrests.org


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