In Wake of Orlando Massacre, LGBT Venues Ramp Up Security

By Todd Heywood

In the aftermath of the Orlando massacre, the staff at Spiral Nightclub in Lansing have begun talking about guns. Not banning them, but rather getting them.

"I've had staff who know I have guns, ask me to shoot with them," said Sam Courtney, the bar's manager. "They are talking about getting guns."

Courtney said while no official decision on security responses at the club have been made, the massacre on June 12 in a gay nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando has his team re-thinking their security measures. During that shooting, 49 patrons were killed and 53 others injured. Police killed the gunmen as he tried to flee the bar through holes they had blown in the exterior walls of the nightclub.

"Security staff used to mingle and clean up dishes," Courtney said. "Now there is a new attention to security in general, and an active shooter in particular. It's being aware of who's out of place, which is too bad because we want this to be a crazy inclusive place."

He said staff have discussed "how do we keep our own community safe?"

"We're going to be here," he said "You're not taking this away from us."

While discussions with his team had revolved around what additional security measures to implement, and private discussions about arming themselves, Courtney said the club has been contacted by a security specialty organization that is offering to train staff on a variety of crisis related issues.

The shift in attention is new for the staff of the club. Courtney said that normally his team will confront verbal fights "maybe every six months, at most."

Courtney, who said he was straight, noted that he is witnessing the community "ramping up security," and acknowledges the discussion of personal guns is part of that, as well as strange.

"People are unsure. People are making choices that are contrary to their progressive values, to their nonviolent values," he said.

Courtney said he has not officially met with Lansing Police Department officials, but on the night of the massacre, LPD Chief Michael Yankowski was present at Spiral for the memorial release of lanterns. Two uniformed officers were stationed outside the bar as well. Police officials have said they are increasing patrols around Spiral, and the other gay nightclub in Lansing, Esquire.

Jody Washington, a city councilmember who represents the ward in which the gay bars in Lansing are located, said she was "sad" that the community felt "unsafe." Washington said she will be working with LPD to make sure special attention is brought to the bars.

Also last week, Detroit Police officials announced they had met with bar owners in that city to discuss safety.

In Fort Worth, Texas, officers from that police department have been visiting bars in the community. And while that might be helpful for some in the community, another sort of scheme to offer protection has also surfaced in the Dallas community.

White nationalist Jason Lee Van Dyke -- who co-authored a legal brief to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals against marriage equality and invoking the long held "western cultural beliefs" including execution of gay people -- is offering weapons and self defense training for the LGBT community.

"Also, as this class is officially being hosted by a 501(c)(3) organization (Texas Marksmen, Inc.), there will be no discrimination as to who is permitted to take the class," Van Dyke wrote in a Facebook event posting over the weekend. "What this means is that, although we are marketing this opportunity only to the LGBT community, anyone who is legally permitted to take the course that wishes to attend will be welcome."

Van Dyke was the legal advisor for the Young Americans for Freedom Michigan State University chapter when that group was listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. It was listed as such for extreme anti-immigrant, anti-Islam, anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic programming. Van Dyke was not a student at the time -- he'd been booted out of MSU for a gun charge. He attempted to have his court record in 54-B District Court expunged, but part of the record -- the register of actions -- remained in the computers. BTL obtained this document which shows Van Dyke faced domestic violence charges as well as weapons charges. The record shows the domestic violence charge was dropped and he was found guilty on the gun charge.

Philip Rodney Moon has been monitoring the activities of Van Dyke and others from that hate group since it veered from conservative political postures to white supremacy ideology and events.

"Van Dyke has shown himself to be homophobic, far beyond the usual tone seen in mainstream conservative conversation," said Moon. "He's freely used offensive speech against LGBT opponents and partnered with the white nationalist group Traditionalist Youth Network to oppose marriage equality in 2014. Van Dyke's outreach is not done with the interests of the LGBT community in mind."


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