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Armed police ‘violently raid’ queer bar helping wounded Black Lives Matter protesters on the first day of Pride Month

Josh Milton June 5, 2020

The Blazing Saddle, a creaky LGBT+ bar in Des Moines, Iowa, was raided by police on the first day of Pride Month. (Screen captures via Facebook)

An LGBT+ bar in Des Moines, Iowa, was “violently raided” by police after club organisers gave medical assistance to Black Lives Matter protesters.

The protesters limply wandered into the bar, their bodies bruised, their voices hoarse, strained from chanting.

On Monday night (June 1) Des Moines police violently raided a queer bar on the first day of Pride Month, arresting three people, in what LGBT+ people have wearily dubbed “Stonewall Two”.

Law enforcement claimed it was because club-goers had broken the 9pm curfew enforced by city leaders to hush unrest, but surveillance footage release by Blazing Saddle sets a different scene.

It showed powdered-up showgirls tending to Black Lives Matter demonstrators’ wounds who were, a witness said, in “agonising pain”, as clashes happened just blocks away.

According to local media, nearly three hours into the city’s curfew and several dispersal orders, police advanced on protesters packing the grounds of the Iowa State Capitol at around 11:45pm and used tear gas canisters and flash bangs to decamp them.

Footage shows two police cruisers rolling in, “packed with police officers in full armour with big f***ing guns” and storming the front of the bar.

The devastating symbolism of a scene seemingly pulled straight out of the history books – police raiding a gay bar some 51 years after doing the same to Stonewall – was not lost on the queer community.

Police leave LGBT+ performers shaken as they raid club armed with ‘two-handed guns’.

The Blazing Saddle is one of the state capital’s oldest queer bars. A creaky bar in the East Village, some have charmingly compared it to being the “Cheers” of the LGBT+ nightlife scene.

Its staff had decided to offer medical assistance on what was the fourth night of Black Lives Matter protests.

(PinkNews)

The bar owners said in a Facebook statement: “Three of our people were prepared with a backpack full of first aid supplies and went outside in case anyone would be in need of assistance post-protest.

“We also had bottles of water and towels available for use if needed,” they added, noting that protesters trickled down Locust and E 5th Street as police trailed behind in unmarked pick-up trucks.

Riot officers then spilt out, spurring the protesters to scatter towards Blazing Saddle. Vana B, a showgirl, described how she and other staffers began administering first aid, stressing that she and none of the workers had attended the protests that night.

Then the police came. “I have never seen a two-handed gun in person in my entire life,” she reflected, telling how officers “stormed the front of our bar in seconds.”

Three arrested for ‘helping people in agonising pain’, claims witness. 

A 25-minute-long surveillance camera video shows officers emptying out the club.

Vana B claimed her “instinct was to run”, so she curved back into the bar’s basement to hide under a shelf. Two cops began searching inside the bar, to whom Vana B flagged her location.

“I proceeded to the bottom of the stairs where I was met with an officer with a flashlight and a pistol in hand pointed down at me.

“I put my hands up and was told to come upstairs. He demanded me to put my arms up and turn around, when he frisked me, quite aggressively.”

She explained how she returned to street level outside the premises to find three showgirls with their hands behind their heads and those with first aid kits being detained, cuffed. Street cameras showed passersby raise their hands up as an avalanche of officers descends upon them.

Police then asked those not detained to go inside the club, lock-up, and hunker down, Vana B said.

“And they clear out with three of our friends who did NOTHING,” she added, “but try and help people who were in agonising pain.”

PinkNews has contacted the Des Moines Police Department for comment.

More: black lives matter, des moines, Iowa, police, Stonewall

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