Police reach settlement with queer bar after raiding during bondage-themed night

A queer bar has reached a financial settlement with Australian police after officers raided it during a bondage-themed night.

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Chasers Nightclub owner Martha Tsamis (C) reached an unknown settlement with Victoria Police following the raid. (Facebook/Chasers Nightclub)

 

More than a dozen Victoria Police officers descended on Chasers Nightclub in Melbourne on the morning of 16 April, following reports a trans patron had been attacked in a toilet cubicle.

Police shut down the “Thick and Juicy” event with more than 400 people pouring out of the Chapel Street venue at 4am.

No charges were brought to any patrons by police, with law enforcement later re-opening Chasers 40 minutes later – but, by then, it was too late. Patrons were long gone.

According to The Age, it remains unclear whether Victoria Police had the power to shut the nightclub and whether such an order was even warranted.

But the Melbourne newspaper reported on Tuesday (30 August) that police and Chasers owner Martha Tsamis have reached an undisclosed settlement over the incident. Both parties refused to speak with The Age about the payout.

Victoria Police has past dealings with Tsamis, being ordered to pay her two more times in the last three years.

A Supreme Court judge ordered Victoria Police to pay Tsamis $90,000 after she won a defamation suit over accusations she was running a “honeypot” for drug dealers.

Tsamis sued the police over remarks made in 2014 by former superintendent Brett Guerin who alleged the then-manager of nightclub Inflation was running the CBD venue in “a manner that was conducive to drug trafficking, drunkenness and violence”.

He claimed Tsamis was allowing minors into the nightclub and the force called for Inflation’s trading hours to be cut down.

To Tsamis, this was part of a wider campaign by the police to inflict “maximum hurt” on her businesses, according to ABC News.

She also received another settlement in 2017 over the shooting of Zita Sukys and Dale Ewins at a fancy dress ball in Inflation.

Victoria Police agreed to a multi-million dollar settlement with the couple and Tsamis, who claimed officers used excessive force when they stormed into the club to find Sukys and Ewins engaged in a sex act and fired at them.

Victoria Police also issued a huge payout of $6 million to the hundreds of LGBTQ+ people who swung by the Tasty nightclub in 1994. Forty armed officers raided the bar as part of a drug bust, screaming at the 463 patrons with megaphones before strip-searching, cavity-searching and detaining them for seven hours.

Australian LGBTQ+ rights campaigners often position the Tasty nightclub raid in much the same way as the Stonewall Uprising, with action group Casualties of Police Intimidatory Tactics later taking Victoria Police to court in 1996.

They succeeded, with a county court ruling the police behaved “unreasonably” and ordered the agency to pay the victims out of its own budget.

Two decades later, the force’s acting commissioner Lucinda Nolan issued a formal apology to the patrons and the “significant distress” the raid caused them and the wider community.

“We know that there is still work to be done,” she said.

 

 

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