Concerns raised over police tactics during gay club raid
The Fire gay nightclub has been temporarily closed following a raid by Lambeth police in the early hours of Saturday morning. Witnesses claim hundreds of police were involved in the raid.
PinkNews.co.uk has heard criticism of the police for taking photographs of clubbers (but not taking their names). One reader pointed out that this was a particular worry for those not yet out.
Nine people were arrested in the raid that followed a three month long intelligence led operation into Class A drugs- codenamed Pivot.
Officers armed with a search warrant raided the club in Vauxhall at 2:15 am on Saturday. Suspects are being held in a central London police station.
The DiscoDamaged blog posted a video of the raids, here in stills from the mobile phone captured film, police can be seen selecting groups of visitors to the gay club to be searched and photographed.
Chief Inspector Clive Wakeley, who is responsible for operation Pivot said: “This type of operation shows our commitment to stopping those who push drugs on the borough. The intelligence that we received led us to mount this operation that successfully finished this morning with nine arrests.”
Mr Wakely added: “Our work will continue not only to crackdown on drug dealing but on all crime to make Lambeth a safer place for all those who live, work and visit.”
The club which hosts A:M (taking place during the raid), Orange, Juicy and Rudeboyz has been temporarily shut down under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
PinkNews.co.uk was unable to reach the club promoter All Things Orange for comment on Saturday. However, PinkNews.co.uk has spoken to a number of regular visitors to Fire who confirm the ready availability of Class A drugs at the venue.
Charles Whitney, who was there told PinkNews.co.uk: “I can understand why the police conducted the operation – things are getting out of hand.
“But the way they did it made me quite angry. Everybody had to queue up to be photographed by a police CCTV van parked outside the club before they were allowed to leave.
“They made us stand in rows of five people while the pix were taken.
“I’ve never been in a raid before but don’t imagine they’d do that at a straight club… so why at Fire?
“Why take our pix? They didn’t take our names, or even search most of us. It’s not such a big issue for me – I’m out – but anybody still in the closet who went to Fire would have been freaking out about the photos.”
A Metropolitan Police spokesman told PinkNews.co.uk that they couldn’t comment on why the photographs were taken without names being recorded.
But a source close to the Metropolitan Police stressed that the service would be mindful of the possible sensitvity in identifying people who were not openly gay.
The following video has been posted on YouTube showing the police photographing groups of clubbers
Already, a number of clubbers have been recounting their experiences on blogs.
Supersluth wrote on DiscoDamaged (a clubbing blog), “The lights came on at 2am.
“We were then lined in in groups of 3 in the car park – had our pictues taken in the glory of spot lights jacked up on police vans, sniffer dogs have a good nose around our legs and escorted out onto the road where there were literally hundreds of police lining the closed off roads and railway bridge.”
They continued: “To get your cloakroom belongings,we had to walk around the block past the bus station and queue up outside the front entrance- now completely manned by police to be allowed to retrieve.”
According to bloggers, police handed clubbers a pre-printed letter claiming that “a serious amount of cocaine and ecstasy have been openly sold in the Fire nightclub.”
Paul S said: “well everyone knew it was only a matter of time, didn’t they?”
(For legal reasons PinkNews.co.uk has removed sentences from these postings)