“This is my business! This is my business!” Tim Lemuel shouted to two officers as they locked and loaded rifles and took aim from around the edge of a building caty-corner to his bar, Ruby Deluxe. Tim had a sign out front that read, “Water and Eye Wash Here”, and was offering first aid to soothe the throats and eyes of protestors after midnight on June 1, 2020, a critical moment in the George Floyd protests wracking the city and the U.S. this summer. He was also cleaning up broken glass and trying to wipe away the White Power graffiti that had defaced the exterior of the bar, one of the few all-inclusive queer venues for music and socializing in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“Move! The game is over, get out!” one of the officers bellowed before launching two volleys in Tim’s direction.
“I was in the Army for eight years so the bangs didn’t bother me, but my staff were scared out of their minds,” Tim explained.
Wake County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Eric Curry claimed Tuesday that the officers only fired “two audible distraction charges” to scare looters. “They contained no projectiles. They were loud bangs. They were deployed by a shotgun.” He further asserted that “perpetrators” who “threw rocks” were seen coming and going from the bar.
Despite the proliferation of photos and videos of riot police kneeling before protestors and offering fist bumps ostensibly in solidarity, old attitudes die hard. Recalling the Stonewall riots of 1969, City Councilman Saige Martin, who is openly gay, had this to say:
“We are still dealing with those same issues for those same people today. And hearing those same words so aggressively, as if there was a game to be had, I think it speaks perfectly well to the kind of thinking and culture that exists and pervades law enforcement today.”
It’s difficult to remember that the raid on the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village took place 51 years ago on June 28, 1969. Stonewall was a meeting place for LGBTQI+ people, especially those of color, before the acronym was coined, and the bar was full of queer people enjoying a summer night out. An unplanned police raid went awry when patrons somehow found the spirit to resist. At first tens and then hundreds of local residents came out to witness the raid and support the arrestees. Public sentiment across the country was questioning authority and criticizing its agents such as the police. Protests broke out and lasted for six days. Stonewall was a turning point when queer people realized their human rights, and it is now commemorated during Pride Month every June in the United States and around the world.
Ruby Deluxe’s Instagram is private but the video of what happened can be viewed here.