LGBTQ+ task force seeks to develop directory to promote ‘places of equality’

Urges San Juan to conduct ‘independent’ investigation into police intervention at queer- and trans-led restaurant

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

Due to an increase in violence against the LGBTQ+ community in Puerto Rico, the Broad Committee in the Quest for Equity (CABE by its Spanish acronym) launched a campaign Wednesday that seeks to develop a directory that includes entities that are committed to being “places of equality” for the community.

CABE spokesperson Osvaldo Burgos Pérez said the campaign, titled “Places of Equity,” encourages entrepreneurs and service providers to acknowledge that their establishments have their doors open for LGBTQ+ residents.

“We seek to directly approach entities such as businesses, offices, customer service providers, nightclubs and many other places that can put a sticker at their entrance or at a visible place to let people from our community know and commit to promoting equity in these places,” he said.

Burgos also said that entities that seek to be part of the campaign should also have labor-management rights and safety practices that take into account the LGBTQ+ population. The attorney also told members of the press that the committee is working on a webpage that includes every entity that vows to support the campaign.

The announcement of the campaign came six days after some 20 agents of the San Juan Municipal Police’s Impact Unit conducted an operation at Loverbar, a queer- and trans-led restaurant and bar in Río Piedras, to audit operating permits.

The incident led to heavy criticism as the intervention occurred at midnight, and police officers entered the establishment holding long rifles.

CABE Spokesperson Giancarlo Colberg Ferrer urged San Juan Mayor Miguel Romero Lugo to conduct an “exhaustive” investigation into the raid with an independent agent.

“In the face of the increasingly hostile climate for the LGBTTIQ+ community in the Legislature and attempts to roll back acquired rights, we believe that it is pertinent to celebrate safe spaces for our LGBTTIQ+ people,” Colberg Ferrer said. “The event that took place at Loverbar was completely unnecessary, this should not be accepted anywhere.”

“We are not asking here not to maintain oversight on permits or not to enforce administrative rulings, what we ask here is to be sensitive,” Colberg Ferrer added. “The government already knows that the community has been a historically marginalized community by both governmental and non-governmental entities.”

Meanwhile, Kilometer 0 Executive Director Mari Mari Narváez said Puerto Rico “must rethink what public safety means.”

“An act like the one that happened last Thursday only put people, who were not committing any crime and having a leisurely time, at risk,” she said. “The mayor’s statement after the police intervention was uncoordinated and not based in reality, and that reality was that bigger problems can happen when there are police officers who are heavily armed.”

She added that the situation is not unique, as her organization has recorded four incidents where police officers have been violent against the LGBTQ+ community. Those incidents include a homophobic slur made toward a gay couple during a recent protest in Rincón, and the misgendering and inappropriate arrest of a trans woman at a March 8 protest in Mayagüez.

When the STAR asked if it was normal to have police agents with long guns conducting permit audits, William Ramírez, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union Puerto Rico Chapter, said that although the island Constitution authorizes searches for administrative records, “the way it was done was not right.”

“It can’t be arbitrary, selective; [searches] cannot be to harm certain communities,” he said. “The show of force was unnecessary, especially at the time this happened.”

“The safest and the constitutional way to do it is by filing an administrative search warrant,” Ramírez added.