What a mess. We could have done so much better.
Legendary local drag personality Dixie Landers — not in drag at the time — got into the mother of all bar fights May 26 and ended up in a coma after gushing a waterfall of blood all over the steps of Centretown Pub.
By the time police and ambulance arrived, Michael Marcil (Dixie’s boy name) was laid out on the floor of the bar inside.
Within hours, fans, friends and chosen family were posting their horror at the event at a specially created Facebook site. It gave people a great opportunity to express their emotions and find mutual support. Sadly, it also resulted in a profusion of posted rumours, half-facts and downright falsehoods and their spread throughout the community.
Our own Marcus McCann got on the story within hours and quickly posted his first report on the Capital Xtra site on xtra.ca. Since then, he’s tracked down the rumours and put tough questions to the police and ambulance service on behalf of our community. He’s updated the site as often as three times in a day. Our web editor, Brent Creelman, created a special page on the web, ensuring that viewers had the opportunity to post their comments and participate in the unveiling of the accurate version of the story.
And viewers raised important questions. Why had the police not arrested Dixie’s assailant? Did the ambulance attendants pass over the very badly injured Dixie in order to help a less injured woman who had been involved in fighting Dixie? Was there a doorman working at CP at the time, and does the bar normally have sufficient staff for these occasions? Why were mainstream media ignoring this story even as Capital Xtra devoted full resources to it? Should there be a protest to vent the community’s rage at yet another violence, and one suffered by one of our most generous local icons?
Marcus kept working, chipping away at the questions, trying to separate facts from emotional outbursts and tell you what he’d found. His May 31 posting recreating the events, as put forward by two witnesses, cleared away a lot of the fog. But many of the fundamental questions remain, and that gnawing feeling experienced by many in our community appears to be at least partially warranted.
The good news is that Dixie’s out of a coma and starting to heal.
The bad news is that our community could have handled this better and we need to do some re-thinking.
Why did bystanders — there were reportedly several nearby at the time — not quickly intervene to break up the fight? Perhaps facts will eventually emerge to suggest nobody was close by when the fight started, but at the time of writing, it appears there were at least several people there. Fights are scary, and they are a tornado of action. But surely, surely we’re able to work together to stop violence against one of our own or between our own.
It’s cockroaches that scatter when surprised, not people. Surely we’ve outgrown the time when homos ran rather than coming to each other’s aide? The people on site should have pulled the parties apart. They should have held them for the cops, and stayed around as witnesses. They should have used all reasonable force to hold the parties apart.
If you see something like this, grab the people next to you and intervene to stop it. We have to stop living like cowards.
And if you witness something like this, don’t leave before the cops arrive. Have the decency to stay and tell what happened. Even if it’s complicated and the queer person’s behaviour was not completely what we might all wish it were. If you were there, and you haven’t yet called the police, please do (613. 236.1222 x5638). Tell the whole story as you saw it.
Finally, a protest was called and then called off. Not good. It’s okay for our community to protest, to vent our frustration and anger, before knowing all the facts. It’s okay to let police and ambulance services know we’re watching and have expectations. It’s okay for the grassroots to call a protest; it doesn’t need to be done by the “leaders” of the community. It’s okay for a protest to happen even if some bureaucrats and members of the police-queer liaison committee aren’t happy. It’s not okay for other people to lean on organizers of a protest and suggest that they should cancel it. It’s not okay for bureaucrats and others to assert that it’s the role of the liaison committee to deal with this issue.
We have the best police service in Canada, when it comes to queer issues. But there’s always room for improvement. Police may, or may not, have acted properly that night (we don’t know yet). Our liaison committee should welcome our community venting its rage at the beating, and use that frustration to push for even more change and improvement (surely, they don’t think all is perfect).
Others in our community have expressed a concern that in recent years that the committee has had too many people who want to be police officers or are easily mesmerized by being on the board. For my part, I’ll add that the queers on that committee need understand that they are there to take our issues to the police, not to represent the police to our community. Even if that means they may not get that job on the force, and even if that makes them feel uncomfortable. Any who can’t do it should resign.
And anybody who tries to get our community to calm down and not express its frustration when someone is beaten, even when things may be complicated, should be ignored. And ashamed of themselves.
We’ll continue to track down the facts and keep you informed. Heal well, darling Dixie. There’s an audience waiting for your next appearance.