Anthony, who covers gay life in the island on the blog, warns of a potentially homophobic crackdown by police officers following local media reports of "indecent and immoral behaviors" at Duarte Park in the downtown colonial zone of Santo Domingo - a common gathering space for the city's LGBT community.
Anthony admits that the park has seen better days and "could use a little cleaning up" but warns that whole exercise might be "solely about removing gay people from Parque Duarte" and advices those planning to visit the Park or any of the gay bars in the colonial zones to carry ID with them and dress nicely as to not get picked up by police.
I have written about Parque Duarte before and it's historical role in raising the visibility of the LGBT community in the Dominican Republic.
- In 2006, I wrote about what I believe was the first outdoor gay pride gathering in the Dominican Republic which took place at - you guessed it - Parque Duarte (the post doesn't say it but I was later told that an estimated 250 people came out to protest the shutting down of gay bars in the colonial zone at the time).
- In 2007, I reported on the follow-up gay pride gathering at Parque Duarte which received some limited media attention.
- In 2008, I reported on a gay pride rally and 3rd annual gay pride gathering at Parque Duarte. This time, emboldened, participants openly flew rainbow flags wherever they went.
- Last year, 2009, I reported on police attempts to break down the gay pride gathering (Monaga responded and said that police were unable to completely shut-down the gathering and suggested that authorities might have been riled up by observing a number of symbolic same-sex marriages that were staged for the celebration).
I haven't found a direct link to the Cardinal's original comments but the first article I have seen directly related to the current police crackdown is an editorial that ran on Monday, April 5th, on Listin Diario, one of the leading Dominican newspapers ("Duarte Park, center of scandals"). The paper, which has been having a field day with the story this week, says in the editorial that the park has been overrun by "drunk, loud people, addicts to drugs and orgies."
"Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodriguéz has denounced - responsively - the aberrations committed there", the editors say, "and so have resident neighbors who have not found answers from the authorities to put an end to this unsustainable situation."
The editorial calls for the local authorities to step in as a means to bring back "good customs," asks them to stop any "shameful acts of immorality" and to put an end acts of "sexual perversity" in which park patrons engage (hm, I'd be willing to bet that the paper lifted the entire Sunday church homily given by the good Cardinal the day before).
Monday, on the same day the paper ran the editorial, Listin Diario also published a separate article with a similar title ("Duarte Park is a center of promiscuity") in which they directly quote the Cardinal as saying that the park is "a space where all kinds of insolent and vulgar behaviors rule".
Additionally, they also quote an anonymous local resident. "Those who attract attention in the Duarte Park." she says, "are the lesbians and the gays who sit down on the benches with their partners to drink alcoholic beverages, caress each other and share with others of their sexual preference, without caring about any of the spectators."
The Cardinal was thrilled! The next day, on Tuesday, April 6th, Listin Diario published a follow-up article titled "Cardinal says vulgarity has reached extremes" stoking the fire they had set the day before.
"Listin Diario's article about Duarte Park is very eloquent and enlightening, but it's not the only place," the Cardinal says, "I have also received complaints from neighbors of the ruins in San Francisco because, according to them, they cannot sleep."
He also blames immoral acts and thanks the increased presence of the authorities implying that it was Listin Diario's reporting that brought interest on the area.
The Cardinal also warns of impending violence if things don't change without a hint of condemnation of any violent acts that might erupt. "The later [the authorities] take action, the worse the solution will be," he says, "because the time will arrive in which the people will see themselves compelled to react in a manner that nobody wants."
Yikes, final solutions anyone?
On Wednesday, April 7th, the paper published two photographs in which two women sat on a park bench and kissed. The caption for the photo on the right reads "In public: The homosexual couple caresses each other on a Parque Duarte bench"; the caption for the 2nd picture, in which they are seen talking to each other, says "Immorality: Homosexuals sitting on a Juan Pabo Duarte Park bench in the colonial zone".
OMG!!! Two people!!!! Kissing!!!! What an orgy!!! The article, titled "National Police identifies gang at Duarte Park" names anonymous "police sources" as linking drug sales to gays.
"In said park," the source says, "homosexuals show up to have a good time with their partners as well as individuals who are devoted to selling narcotics, an activity they engage in by using as an intermediary or feigning selling mints, which they keep inside a backpack, next to the drugs."
Said unnamed authority also says that the number of homosexual partners - gulp! - grows exponentially once Thursday night rolls along and doesn't let up until Sunday night.
Where is this all of this heading? You might as well have guessed it. Being criticized by the Cardinal and the media all week long for not taking action, the local police authorities, led by Santo Domingo District Attorney Alejandro Moscoso, organized a press conference for Thursday, April 8th. ("Attorney's Office will punish those who cause a scandal") in which he met with local residents.
Yes. A week after the Cardinal suggested it was a citizen-led morality drive, the paper said that the Attorney held a community town-hall yesterday on the issue and promised folks that the police would shut down any sites that attempted against "morals and good behaviors". The article in which Listin Diario reported on the town-hall meeting, which was published yesterday, Friday, April 9th, was also the first time that the paper deemed it necessary to quote anyone from the Dominican LGBT community.
Both self-described gay right activists stated that they were in agreement with authorities keeping the order at gatherings happening at the park, but Tania Guzmán, who told the paper that she was an ordained minister, expressed fear of the community turning violent against the LGBT community.
Francis Taylor, who is also quoted, asked for the LGBT community to be included in any deliberations related to public order at the park.
Neither said they had been invited to participate in the town-hall meetings.
Previously on Blabbeando:
- Dominican Republic: Rita Indiana comes out (March 23., 2010)
- Dominican Republic: Ashley Schneider takes the crown (January 10, 2010)
- Dominican Republic: Gay beauty pageant to go on despite earlier threats from governor (November 23, 2009)
- Dominican Republic: Prosecutor links earrings to homosexuality (October 12, 2008)