A group of LGBT supporters conducted a rally and then marched through part of Hoquiam on Sunday morning, including a silent walk across the street from the Black Pearl Tavern, the focal point of problems between the LGBT community and the bar owner and his patrons.
Ill feelings between the LGBT community and the bar owner have gone on for several months. Members of the LGBT community say it started when the bar asked a transgender person to leave. The bar owner says it was started when he rejected a request to host a drag show.
Owner Johnny Gallego and several bar patrons stood outside, several wearing “Straight and Proud” t-shirts for sale at the bar. Gallego said he’d sold about 150 of them.
According to Hoquiam Police Lt. Jeff Salstrom, the group began at Events on Emerson at 212 4th Street. Salstrom was on duty and said after speeches were wrapped up, members of the group a Pride sign and took to the streets.
Head of Out and Proud Grays Harbor Miki Cabell did call police dispatch as the group was heading into town. She reported that a man in the apartments at 530 Emerson was displaying a gun and a Rebel flag. She also told police that people in the building shouted slurs at the group. Driving nearby, Salstrom arrived within 10 seconds of the call.
“It was reported a man was displaying a gun and yelling things. One of the apartments was displaying a rebel flag out the window, and somebody yelled ‘queer’ at them,” said Salstrom. Members of the group felt threatened, he said, prompting the call.
When Salstrom arrived at the apartment building he was met by the man whose apartment was displaying the flag. He said the gun in question was an Airsoft air rifle and was being carried through the house by his son, Salstrom reported. He denied shouting anything or that the gun was handled in a menacing way, and Salstrom said he offered to take the flag down.
“He said he felt bad and wanted to go over and apologize,” said Salstrom. “So I took him over, where he met Miki, shook her hand and said he was sorry” if she felt threatened as that was not his intention. “Everyone in the group sounded like they were on good terms afterward,” he added.
Later Sunday, Cabell posted this on her Facebook page: “An amazing day of love and equality here on the Harbor. We do not tolerate hate. Diverse opinions welcome, however violence and threats of violence will not be tolerated. Thanks to everyone for coming out today in this show of unity.” She thanked Jen Gillies, co-founder of Out and Proud Grays Harbor and current student adviser for the Grays Harbor College Gay Straight Alliance, for organizing the event.
Drag King performer Caesar Hart filmed the event and posted it on his Facebook page. He wrote, “Sadly, we experienced hate from members in the community during our peaceful rally. Thankfully our police department was there in a flash and I’ll say de-escalated the situation right away.” The video shows about 20 in the group carrying signs as they walked silently across the street from the Black Pearl. The end of the video shows the group breaking into cheers right after they walked by the tavern. Salstrom said when the group started chanting “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it,” some of the patrons at the bar responded with their own Seahawks chant.
There will be another drag show in town at the Simpson Avenue Bar and Grill Sept. 17, called the “SmallTown, Big Harts Drag Revue: For the Kidz Drag Show.