Monday, June 19, 2006

Dominican Republic: Gay bars shut down

Clave Digital reports that a gay dance club called Arena (pictured) and a neighboring gay bar called Punto, two establishments in Santo Domingo's historic colonial zone, were shut down late Saturday night for alleged 'noise violations.' Numbers vary but sixteen to thirty-five patrons and staff members were also detained overnight and then released yesterday morning without charges.

Henry Mercedes, an actor and a member of the Presidential Council on HIV/AIDS, said that he was among those who were detained at Arena by members of the local zone's tourist police (known locally as Politour) just as he was posting announcements about an upcoming human rights conference. Mercedes told the paper that when he requested information as to why he and others were being detained, the leading fiscal agent
Julio Saba Encarnacion simply "pushed him inside" a correctional vehicle.

Officer Encarnacion, for his part, told Clave that Arena and Punto were causing "great noise pollution" at the time of the arrests, and alleged that the owners had also been found to run an illicit hotel and sauna inside the establishments, reasons why both would remain closed until the matter was brought to court.

Kelvin Martinez, who owns both Arena and Punto, said that noise could not have been a factor at the time of the arrests because the dance club was still closed at 11:55pm, time at which the police arrived - and that the sound system was not working properly anyway. He also told the paper that the only clients present were those drinking peacefully at the bar. The authorities "did not arrive with a court order and took everyone they saw, three employees were saved [from being detained] just because they hid," he added.

Asked about the detainees, Officer Encarnacion told the paper that some people were detained because they did not have identity cards with them and could have been minors being served in an adult establishment and because the bar staff had not followed public codes that established that all bars in the historic zone should close at 2am on weekend nights.

In the article, Mercedes says that he believes that the real reason for the police intervention was a report that appeared also in Clave on June 15th in which the owner of the two establishments accused the police of subjecting him to a series of bribes over the past few months [editor's note: I have not been able to find the previous article in Clave's archives]

Martinez told the paper that the police had yet to return his own keys to his establishments. He also stated, as Mercedes did, that he had been pushed into a correctional vehicle when he insisted that the police show him a judicial order, and claimed that he was beaten up during the ride: "It was shameful. They took the bar's few clients and alleged that it had to do with an investigation from the INTERPOL, as if we were stupid. We know what this is about and where the order came from."

According to Clave, another eight establishments were visited by the authorities that night, which resulted in the shutting down of a small shop called Omar and a sound system being removed from another straight bar

Diario Libre says that the number of detentions were 16 and that the interventions happened between 11pm and 3am. It also says that Martinez was not allowed to make any phone calls form jail.

El Nacional says that Martinez put the number of detained individuals at 35 including a DJ, a bouncer, a bartender and a cashier and that the establishment always asks patrons for ID's to avoid serving minors.

UPDATES:

3 comments:

Sangroncito said...

Shameful. Is the D.R. yet another Caribbean nation that gays must boycott (along with the Cayman Islands, St. Marteen, and Jamaica) for their anti-gay and discriminatory practices?

Andrés Duque said...

Not at all Sangroncito! There are some good folks doing great work in the Dominican Republic to counter these actions. The fact that this is getting some international attention has actually led to the authorities being forced to defend themselves and that is a good thing! Let's hope that it leads to the end of what is pretty common practice (asking gay bar owners for bribes to avoid harrassment of patrons and fake penalties being lobbied at the bars).

Anonymous said...

That place sound more and more like Cuba where Gay people are incarcerated and deemed " Dangerous " Their law is called " Peligrosidad " I feel like calling a boycot internationally and we'll see if Tourism gets affected or not, afterall our gay dollars are very needed in that nation.