Photo: Flickr

San Juan Municipal Police Department ambushed a queer venue, Loverbar, claiming they were verifying permits.

More than 15 heavily armed members of San Juan’s police impact unit targeted a gay bar near the campus of the University of Puerto Rico.

Lovebar, and seven other businesses, were fined over permits or claims of excessive noise.

The Municipal Police of San Juan led by Miguel Romero intervened last night with a queer bar. This reminds us of a time when LGBTQI+ people were persecuted, criminalized and vilified. We won’t tolerate homophobia and transphobia in San Juan,” posted LGBTQ+ activist Pedro Julio.

“San Juan Puerto Rico cops went into a gay bar last night dressed like soldiers in a war zone. The mayor’s spokeswoman says the mayor thinks the show of force was a bit much. Critics call it an intimidation tactic. The mayor says cops were enforcing a permit,” tweeted David Begnaud, as events broke.

Miguel Romero, mayor of San Juan, released a statement online following the raid: “My administration’s commitment has always been in favor of vulnerable communities. In San Juan municipal government there is no room for discrimination, including towards the LGBTTQIA community +.

The mayor reiterated his support for the LGBTQ+ community and marginalised people.

“Today’s afternoon new information has come to my attention from sectors of the LGBTTQIA+ community in San Juan involving our police force. It is my duty as Mayor of the Capital City to attend to the claims made by all San Juan communities, especially those that have been marginalized,” the mayor wrote.

“This is why I pledge to conduct a thorough investigation into allegations made in interventions aimed at verifying permissology. I repeat, that our public policy is and always will be zero tolerance for discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Valid claims from the LGBTTQIA+ community and I acknowledge their constant struggle to achieve a just and equitable society.”

Comité Amplio Para la Búsqueda de Equidad (CABE) has called for an “exhaustive and independent investigation into the excessive use of force and intimidation by the Municipal Police of San Juan last night”.

“What we witnessed in videos and photos on social media of what happened last night at Loverbar is alarming. That location is a safe space for LGBTTIQ people +. There’s no reason to justify the use of long weapons, dozens of agents and the intimidating force of the San Juan Municipal Police Impact Unit to allegedly seek a permit”, Dr. Carmen Milagros Vélez Vega, spokeswoman for CABE.

“This reminds us of the times when intervening with places like Cups in Santurce when they were chasing and bullying us in our safe spaces decades ago. We don’t want to think we’re back to the times when homophobia and transphobia are inserted into the San Juan Municipal Police.

“We can’t forget that the current Commissioner of the San Juan Municipal Police, Jose Juan Garcia, led a squadron in the State Police that was pointed out on countless occasions for violating civil rights and homophobic and transphobic practices, ” said Osvaldo Burgos Pérez, a CABE spokesperson.

You can watch the video of the police officers surrounding Lovebar here or below: