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Gay men arrested in Washington D.C. for cruising ‘reminiscent of Stonewall’

Emma Powys Maurice August 16, 2019

26 arrests of men seeking other men for a sexual encounter have been made in Washington DC's Meridian Hill Park (stock image)

Washington Park Police are facing claims of “discrimination” after allegedly luring gay men into sexual encounters in order to arrest them for sex crimes.

In the last year, 26 arrests of men seeking other men for a sexual encounter have been made in Washington DC’s Meridian Hill Park.

The 12-acre urban park has been known for at least 50 years as a cruising spot for mostly African-American gay men.

D.C. defence attorney John Albanes told Washington Blade that several of his fellow attorneys represent clients arrested at the park by undercover officers “posing as consenting prospective partners interested in a sexual tryst”.

The tactics used in these cases just fly in the face of proper police work

He described a “pattern” of arrests involving undercover plain-clothes Park Police officers enticing men for purportedly consensual sexual activity, who then proceed to arrest their targets.

A ‘sting operation’ — that is, the involvement of the police in setting up a situation where that person may freely choose to commit the crime — is not illegal in the US.

However, a law enforcement official actively inducing or enticing a person to commit a crime constitutes entrapment, which is illegal.

Enticing gay men to commit a crime was common in the pre-Stonewall days when the police frequently used entrapment to arrest homosexuals on the charge of “degenerate disorderly conduct”.

“I find this pattern extremely disturbing and reminiscent of the Stonewall days when gay men were often the target of police discrimination. The tactics used in these cases just fly in the face of proper police work and should be exposed,” Albanes said.

“The officers are posing as willing participants in a consensual encounter between adults.

“The target is deceived into thinking that what he is about to do is wanted. This raises serious doubts about whether the government can prove criminal intent.”

Speaking to the Blade, a Park Police public information officer acknowledged that the 26 arrests involved charges of one or a combination of disorderly conduct, lewd acts, unlawful entry, and simple assault (sexual).

But he said he couldn’t immediately determine if the arrests were made by plain clothes or uniformed officers.

More: cruising, Discrimination, Washington DC

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