The Raid on the Caravan Club

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Inside the Caravan Club | Police Photo/UK National Archives | 17049

The Caravan Club in Soho, London was a lesbian and gay friendly members’ club that billed itself as “London’s greatest bohemian rendezvous said to be the most unconventional place in town”. The club, at 81 Endell Street, was one of many mostly temporary venues at a time when being openly gay was perilous, often resulting in prosecution and imprisonment.

The club was run by Billy Reynolds and a former strongman and escapologist called Jack Neave, known as “Iron Foot Jack” because of the metal platform he wore to compensate for a shortened leg.

After a series of complaints about the behaviour of the customers, the Metropolitan police put the club under surveillance from October 1933. Police seem to have watched the comings and goings from unused offices at the Shaftesbury Theatre opposite.

In August 1934 they raided the club, with plainclothes officers easily entering by pretending to be visitors.

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Inside the Caravan Club | Police Photo/UK National Archives | 17050

The officer in charge of the raid was Inspector Clarence, who noted : “The room inside was very badly lighted and the atmosphere was awful. … Men were dancing with men and women were dancing with women, a number of couples were simply standing still, and I saw couples wriggling their posteriors, and where I saw men together they had their hands on the other’s buttocks and were pressing themselves together. In fact all the couples I saw were acting in a very obscene manner.”

A policeman on the raid reported: “Two men were standing in front of each other dancing and moving their bodies close to each other. One had his hand on the other’s flies and the other one said: “Oh, darling.””

One policeman was shocked to enter the bathroom and find two men applying mascara and rouge to each others’ faces.

One regular customer, Cyril, had written a letter to Billy Reyolds, which was found and seized by the Police. “I have only been queer for about two years because I knew nothing about it until I came to London.” He was married and had a daughter. He ends the letter: “Billy, please be a dear boy and destroy this note.” The note is kept in the National Archives.

103 men and women were arrested and taken to Bow Street police station. Many of the young men there were working class. The majority were found not guilty in court on condition they never frequented such a club again.

History does not record whether they complied with that instruction.

Reynolds and Neave were given sentences of 12 months and 20 months respectively hard labour in prison.

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/feb/27/revived-1930s-london-gay-members-club-caravan-club-raided-by-police


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Dublin’s gay secrets!

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Dublin in the late 1970s had a secret gay scene, based on the local coffee shops and pubs, explains Liam Collins.

There was an underground scene comprised of married men, priests and prominent public figures who lived in constant fear of being ‘outed’.

The more obvious gay scene was centred around the theatre and RTE, which was known by some in both the gay and political communities as ‘Fairyhouse’. Bartley Dunne’s pub, along with Rice’s and Tobin’s nearby, formed a triangle of ‘gay-friendly’ pubs before the term was widely in use. None of them were strictly gay and they liked to keep an eclectic clientele so that prominent figures in the legal profession, actors and the like would not stand out as being obviously homosexual at a time when it was illegal.

The response by the authorities to the murder of a gay man called Charles Self “was to round up 1,500 known gay men and build a data bank of fingerprints and photographs and ask who they slept with and for their partners’ names,” according to Brian Merriman, director of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network. “This action traumatised and destroyed many lives.”

The Garda file notes: “Many of his friends and acquaintances can best be described as an arty set with different attitudes and behaviour patterns from that of ordinary and conventional members of society.”

in 1993, homosexuality in the Republic was decriminalised by the Minister for Justice Maire Geoghegan-Quinn after a successful legal challenge by David Norris, who is now a Senator.

http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/special-reports/dublins-gay-scene-was-hidden-but-it-was-thriving-34925814.html


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When gay men fled the UK

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David Boyle writes in The Guardian about one of his ancestors, a gay man, who got caught up in the furore and witch hunt which followed the Pheonix Park Murders in Dublin in 1882, when republican terrorists stabbed the Irish secretary to death. At the time, Dublin was ruled by Britain.

The murders shocked the public on both sides of the Irish Sea, and to claw back the moral high ground Irish nationalist MPs launched a campaign to identify homosexuals in the Irish government or part of the establishment in Dublin – starting with the senior detective in charge of the Phoenix Park case, James Ellis French. The campaign led to huge torchlight processions and mass demonstrations in many towns and cities of Ireland. … Most of the defendants were acquitted – the main issue at stake was whether it was physically possible to commit sodomy in a hansom cab.

The murder became the excuse a zealous anti-homosexual MP, Henry Labouchère, his chance to tag onto an unrelated Bill, the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, a clause entitled “Outrages against public decency” which had the effect of making sex between consenting adult men illegal. A situation which remained until 1967.

His amendment was debated at night in a few minutes, and only one MP queried whether it was relevant to the debate.

In 1895 after the passage of the Bill, Mr Boyle’s gay relative vanished from the records. The witch hunt had started in England. He records

Contemporary letters imply the same of many others – maybe many hundreds of them. One correspondent reported that there were 600 passengers queuing for the Calais ferry the night Oscar Wilde was arrested that April.

The train and ferry to Calais was a popular escape route, but there were others. Generations of gay men who wanted to be able to live without fear of arrest found other ways to get out of the UK. There were the forces; there was the Merchamt Navy. And there may have been other surreptitious ways to leave London, which remain undocumented in gay histories.

In his book “Mr Clive and Mr Page”, published in January 1996, twenty years ago this month, which was set in the 1920s, Neil Bartlett OBE, who was Artistic Director of the Lyric Hammersmith from 1994 to 2005, wrote of one of the characters in his novel who booked a passage through Thomas Cook’s on a tea clipper. There was a regular clipper service between Riga and Hays Wharf, now a shopping centre but then a working wharf, adjacent to Tower Bridge. It is understood there was a small community of ex-patriate British gay men in Riga throughout the 1920s and 1930s, but your Activist’s enquiries of gay organisations in Riga have failed to elicit any information regarding this community or what happened to them at the outbreak of World War II (if they were still there then.)

After World War II another expatriate community of British gay men emerged in Tunis, North Africa.

I would be delighted to hear from anyone who has any further information about the migration of gay men from the UK following the 1885 Act.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/21/gay-ancestor-witch-hunt-sexual-behaviour

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/671989.Mr_Clive_And_Mr_Page

http://www.theguardian.com/profile/neilbartlett

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Stephen Port – The Barking Murders, 2014

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Stephen Port | 16284ga

This post was updated on 27 November 2016.

Stephen Port, 40, who was alleged to have murdered four men he had met over gay websites and who were later found dead in an east London graveyard, first appeared in court on 19 October 2015.

Port appeared at Barkingside Magistrates Court charged with four counts of murder and four counts of administering a poison with intent to endanger life between last June and September this year. He was sent for trial at the Old Bailey.

The four men were found dead in the churchyard at St Margaret’s Church, in North Street, Barking. All had died from an overdose of the drug GHB allegedly administered by Port.

Anthony Walgate, 23, a second year art, fashion and design student at University of Middlesex and originally from Hull, was found dead in the early hours of June 2014 in Cooke Street, Barking, a short distance from the church. Gabriel Kovari, 22, from Deptford, was found in August by a member of the public who also found the body of Daniel Whitworth, 21, from Gravesend, Kent, in September in the same part of the churchyard. Jack Taylor, 25, from Dagenham, was found near the Abbey Ruins, in September this year, just 300 yards from where Mr Kovari and Mr Whitworth were found.

His trial was held at The Old Bailey in November 2016.

Port was found guilty on 23 November 2016. He has been found guilty of the murders of four young men using fatal doses of date rape drug GHB.

He was also found guilty of the murders of Anthony Walgate, 23, Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and 25-year-old Jack Taylor.

He was also convicted of four rapes, four assaults by penetration and ten counts of administering a substance with intent.

Port was sentenced on 25 November 2016. He will spend the rest of his life in prison for the murders of four young gay men. Victims’ relatives cheered and clapped as Mr Justice Openshaw told Port he would never be released, and one woman in the public gallery of the Old Bailey courtroom called the impassive Port a “scumbag”.

Port stalked his victims on dating websites like Grindr and plied them with drinks spiked with fatal amounts of the drug GHB. He then raped them while they were unconscious, and dumped their bodies in or near a graveyard within 500 metres of his flat in Barking, east London.

Then he embarked on an elaborate cover-up, disposing of their mobile phones, repeatedly lying to police and even planted a fake suicide note in the hand of one of his victims, taking the blame for the death of another of his victims.

Port was found guilty of the murders after a jury deliberated for 28 hours and 27 minutes. He was also convicted of a string of sex offences against seven other men who came forward following his arrest.

A man in the public gallery shouted at Port: “I hope you die a long slow death you piece of s–t.”

UK police are reviewing the deaths of dozens men who used sex-enhancing drugs, amid concerns that cases previously dismissed as drug overdoses may be further victims of serial killer Stephen Port.

The Metropolitan Police Service told CNN they had identified at least 58 deaths from poisoning by the date rape drug GHB between June 2011 and October 2015 — the period in which Port carried out his crimes.

“It is not known if these deaths were related to chemsex activities. In many cases police involvement was limited with the matter dealt with by the coroner,” a police spokesman told CNN. “A review of these deaths is now under way to establish any suspicious circumstances.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/23/serial-killer-stephen-port-guilty-date-rape-drug-deaths-three/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/25/serial-killer-stephen-port-handed-whole-life-term-murder-four/

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/man-poisoned-four-people-he-met-on-gay-dating-websites-a3093841.html

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/11/24/europe/stephen-port-serial-killer-investigation/


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Queensland to erase old convictions for homosex offences

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Queensland, Australia will follow the lead set by the other Australian states Victoria and New South Wales in expunging historical gay consensual sex criminal convictions, following a meeting between LGBTI community representatives and the state government but men convicted of homosexual conduct prior to its decriminalisation in Queensland in 1990, will probably have to wait until after next year’s state election to apply to have their records altered.

The Sydney Star Observer notes that

Despite most of the 460-plus men convicted of homosexual acts throughout the law’s near 100-year history of existence, Peter Black, the president of Brisbane Pride, a Queensland University of Technology senior law lecturer, told media that expungement of past convictions would be a significant moment for the LGBTI community.

“[It would be] a recognition from the government that those laws should never have been on the books to begin with – and that is consensual sexual activity between two adult men should not be criminal and I think there is some genuine symbolic value for the LGBTI community in having the Queensland government – or any government for that matter – come forward and provide a process for the convictions to be expunged,” Black said.

Source

Sydney Star Observer

John Lawrence

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John G. Lawrence (l) | Unknown photographer | Public Domain | 14224

John G. Lawrence (pictured left), the man behind the 2003 US Supreme Court case decriminalizing “gay sex” and sodomy, died from complications of a heart condition on Nov. 30th 2011.

In 1998, Lawrence and another man were arrested for having sex in Lawrence’s apartment. Authorities argued the men violated a Texas law prohibiting “deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.” Lawrence eventually brought his case before the Supreme Court in Lawrence vs Texas, in which a 6-3 decision reversed a 17-year-old precedent which had ruled that there was nothing in the Constitution to stop states from making it a crime for gay men to have consensual sex at home. Justice Anthony Kennedy famously wrote in the 2003 ruling that gay people “are entitled to respect for their private lives,” adding that “the state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.”

“He had not been active in the gay rights movement or even out as a gay man to all of his co-workers and family,” said Suzanne B. Goldberg, who represented Lawrence as a part of Lambda Legal. “Instead, this was something that happened to him. The police came into his bedroom and put him into the middle of one of the most significant gay rights cases in our time.”


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