The Lavender Panthers

Rev. Ray Broshears, a homosexual activist, is a highly vocal critic of police activities in San Francisco. When a police officers' association sued him for slander, he responded by printing up bogus "wanted" posters. Broshears started a series of weekly lunches for senior citizens in conjunction with a homosexual organization.

Rev. Ray Bros­hears, a homo­sex­ual activist, was a highly vocal critic of police activ­i­ties in San Fran­cisco. When a police offi­cers’ asso­ci­a­tion sued him for slan­der, he responded by print­ing up bogus “wanted” posters. Bros­hears started a series of weekly lunches for senior cit­i­zens in con­junc­tion with a homo­sex­ual organization.

There was a time in the USA, when harass­ing a gay man would not result in crim­i­nal charges, or at least not seri­ous ones. At that time homo­sex­u­als had even less legal pro­tec­tion than blacks (and we know how much help they were get­ting) so ver­bally abus­ing or even phys­i­cally assault­ing a gay man was con­sid­ered a minor offense. But in one city, that offense meant you were about to get the shit kicked out of you by a gang of gay vigilantes.

They were The Laven­der Pan­thers, formed in the ‘70s in San Fran­cisco as the direct result of per­va­sive gay bash­ing across the coun­try. The Rev­erend Ray Bros­hears, (who, as an openly gay Pen­te­costal Evan­ge­list preacher has to be the man with the least prob­a­ble job in fuck­ing his­tory) formed the group after get­ting his own ass kicked for being gay and in public.

The group was renowned for its abil­ity to appear out of nowhere (or a large van), and promptly begin flail­ing ass on any­one who rep­re­sented a threat to indi­vid­u­als, or the com­mu­nity at large. They also had a form of immu­nity. After all, if you’re uncom­fort­able enough with your mas­culin­ity to go around harass­ing ran­dom gay men on the street, you’re prob­a­bly going to be unwill­ing to admit to the police that you just got your ass rolled on by The Laven­der Panthers.

Read the fol­low­ing arti­cle from Time Mag­a­zine of Mon­day, Oct. 08, 1973:

Four San Fran­cisco teen-agers recently got the sur­prise of their young lives. Tool­ing around in their souped-up car look­ing for a lit­tle fun, they spot­ted two homo­sex­u­als leav­ing the Naked Grape, a well-known gay bar. The youths roared to a stop, jumped out of their car and began to push the homo­sex­u­als around. Sud­denly a brawny band, led by a man in a cler­i­cal col­lar, leaped from a gray Volk­swa­gen bus and lit into them. “We didn’t even ask ques­tions,” said the Rev. Ray Bros­hears, 38. “We just took out our pool cues and started flail­ing ass.” The teen-agers fled into the night, only to return ten min­utes later, beg­ging for their car: “Look, man, we don’t want no trou­ble.“
The group they most assuredly did not want trou­ble with was the Laven­der Pan­thers, a stiff-wristed team of gay vig­i­lantes who have taken to the streets of San Fran­cisco to pro­tect their con­fr­eres against just such attacks. Formed by the Rev. Ray, a Pen­te­costal Evan­ge­list and known homo­sex­ual who him­self was once beaten severely out­side his gay mis­sion cen­ter, the Pan­thers patrol the streets nightly with chains, billy clubs, whis­tles and cans of red spray paint (a sub­sti­tute for for­bid­den Mace). Their pur­pose, as the Rev. Ray can­didly puts it, is to strike ter­ror in the hearts of “all those young punks who have been beat­ing up my faggots.”

San Fran­cisco has long had a rep­u­ta­tion for per­mis­sive­ness toward homo­sex­u­als, and the police depart­ment claims that there are only a cou­ple of iso­lated inci­dents of gay beat­ings on their records. The homo­sex­u­als say that that is pre­cisely the point: gays will not file I com­plaints because the police are likely to accuse them of hav­ing invited the beat­ing by propo­si­tion­ing some­one. The Rev. Ray’s own log shows 300 inci­dents of mug­gings and beat­ings of homo­sex­u­als in San Fran­cisco dur­ing the past six months, usu­ally by roam­ing teen-age gangs. A pudgy, con­fessed cow­ard, Ray says he finally got fed up on the Fourth of July after he had com­plained to police that some young toughs were set­ting off fire­works in a park­ing lot out­side his Help­ing Hands Gay Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Cen­ter. Accord­ing to Ray, when the cops arrived all they did was tell the youths he had rat­ted on them. The toughs pro­ceeded to beat him sense­less. Two days later Ray announced that the Laven­der Pan­thers were com­ing out.
Kung Fu. The basic band num­bers 21 homo­sex­u­als, includ­ing two les­bians who are reput­edly the tough­est hom­bres in the lot. Besides their goal of halt­ing the attacks, the Laven­der Pan­thers want to gain­say the pop­u­lar notion that all homo­sex­u­als are “sissies, cow­ards and pan­sies” who will do noth­ing when attacked. All of the Pan­thers know judo, karate, Kung Fu or plain old alley fight­ing. For gays with­out defen­sive skills, the Pan­thers hold train­ing ses­sions with instruc­tion from a judo brown belt and a karate expert. Although Ray has a work­ing arrange­ment with Elliot Black­stone, the police com­mu­nity rela­tions offi­cer who deals with homo­sex­u­als, not to carry firearms on his patrols, he does keep a shot­gun in his office, which, he boasts, “will leave a hole in a man big enough to drive a tank through Georgia.”

Beyond their stip­u­la­tion against the Pan­thers’ car­ry­ing guns, the police have not inter­fered with the patrols, nor have they received any com­plaints from any­one the Pan­thers have accosted. Indeed, the Pan­thers have got­ten more heat from their own brethren than from the police. Bill McWilliams, owner of three gay bars, says, for exam­ple, that the patrons of his Boot Camp bar can take good care of them­selves. More­over, many of the city’s afflu­ent gays do not like the idea of hard-eyed homo­sex­ual toughs caus­ing com­mo­tion in the streets. But Ray insists that his Dra­con­ian mea­sures are nec­es­sary. “Mid­dle Amer­ica has always had a lit­tle tinge of homo­pho­bia,” he says. “But I’ve had it up to here. All this queer bash­ing has sim­ply got to stop.”

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