Dec 4, 2012
This past Thanksgiving weekend in Wichita, Kansas police indiscriminately fired tear gas on over 1,000 nightclub patrons.
The story is just now finally beginning to surface in the media, thanks to viral videos that were posted to YouTube.
According to reports, there was an ongoing feud between the business and the city, who was trying to force the night club out to make way for expensive hotels.
“To understand why the Wichita Police Department chose to deploy tear gas on over 1,000 people outside and inside of a popular dance club on Thanksgiving night, and why this was an act of terrorism, one must first examine the socioeconomic and political factors surrounding Old Town, Wichita’s entertainment district.
According to the Old Town Association, a committee of business owners in the district, Old Town businesses generate over $50 million, annually.
The club that was tear gassed, Doc Howard’s, is located directly in-between two very posh hotels, the Hotel at Old Town and the Courtyard Marriott….
In September, the Wichita City Council passed a series of ordinances after a spate of incidents in Old Town. T
he ordinances gave police more power to cite people not leaving the area fast enough, added more cameras and reworded an ordinance determining which clubs can cater to customers who are adults, but not yet at the legal drinking age, which, in Kansas, is 21.
These ordinances were lobbied for by the Old Town Association, and opposed by the owners of Doc Howard’s.
The problem with these ordinances is that they do little to address the actual problem.
The ordinances require club owners to provide security outside their clubs, and particularly in adjacent parking lots.”
Problems at the club escalated when the club owner laid off various police officers who were moonlighting as security guards.
The article continues:
“When these ordinances passed, the owners at Doc Howard’s made the decision to stop paying four Wichita police officers to provide private security outside the club.
These officers were each being paid $37.50 per hour, by Doc Howard’s. However, the Wichita Police Department determines who can actually hire these off-duty but uniformed officers, and who cannot.
Doc Howard’s cannot hire these officers directly, so they are required to contract them through the Old Town Association. The Old Town Association has determined that Doc Howard’s is bad for their businesses, and many of those owners want Doc Howard’s shut down.
The high class hotels in the area feel that having large numbers of drunk minorities walking by is detrimental to their sales revenue.
Many of the business owners that comprise the Old Town Association also have very close ties to members of the Wichita City Council, which passed these ordinances, that were clearly designed to harm Doc Howard’s business.
In fact, one member of the City Council actually held their victory celebration in the Hotel at Old Town, after the election.
So essentially, Doc Howard’s was paying these police officers who were, in all actuality, working against the club for the Old Town Association.
So, a few weeks ago, Doc Howard’s stopped paying the private police unit. And that is when the real problems started.”
Details of what happened the night in question are still debated, but there are a few videos that have surfaced, and the following version of events was described in the quoted article:
Now we come back to Thanksgiving and the tear gas incident outside the club.
According to Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams, one canister of tear gas was deployed in response to multiple small disturbances outside the club, although video evidence and eye witness reports do not support these claims.
What is known, is that tear gas was deployed, just as the club-goers had started filing out of the door.
Approximately 1,000 people were either in the street outside the club, or still exiting the building when the tear gas was deployed. The chaos that ensued was captured on multiple security cameras and the videos are embedded below.
The security cameras that were installed after the ordinances passed were, according to Chief Williams, not functioning.
The police department failed to inform the media of the incident for several days. In fact, if certain members of the media had not been tipped off (by me), the police never would have made any statement regarding this incident.
When the Chief did finally release a statement, he downplayed the situation and repeatedly claimed that the tear gas was the safest way to disperse the crowd, which is absolutely ridiculous when one views the video footage.
The reality is that the crowd was dispersing, and the tear gas caused an extremely dangerous situation in which people were trampled.
When Chief Williams released his statement, he had not seen the video footage, and did not expect it to be released. Chief Williams says the tear gas was justified and reasonable, although local civil rights attorney Jim Thompson disagrees.
Thompson says that the officer’s actions put far more people in danger and that those people have a cause for action in civil court.
Thompson represents Doc Howard’s and also spoke out against the ordinances when they were first proposed by the City Council.
Club owners everywhere are constantly being attacked with various legal ordinances and must constantly contend with police scaring away their customers.
The following videos give the best indication of what actually happened that night.
This article was posted: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 5:42 am