Gay Bar Staff Arrested For Giving Water To Protesters. Was There Illegal Activity?

Image via Facebook @TheBlazingSaddle

In the midst of a nation upset with turmoil and political unrest, one gay bar saw itself as the target of police aggression.

According to staff members at the Blazing Saddle in Des Moines, Iowa, the bar was raided after acting as a support station for protesters. Many cities within the United States of America (and many more outside of it) have held protests in response to the killing of George Floyd and the terrorizing of police over black and brown citizens. Des Moines is no different.

This past Monday night, Des Moines witnessed yet another protest in response to police brutality, as Out Magazine reports. A few employees of the Blazing Saddle chose to make the bar a resting station for protesters. Employees offered water and first aid supplies to protesters harmed by the police’s tear gas. Unfortunately, the police heard of this and decided to end the support.

“An unmarked white pick-up containing numerous officers in riot gear turned onto our street,” the bar wrote in a post on Facebook. The employees were at the bar initially because the city had encouraged venue owners to not board up their buildings, so they had come in person to prevent looting. “Many of the [protestors who had been dispersing] on foot started running and our people with first aid supplies were heading back to the Saddle from the alley. At this point the police disembarked from the pick-up bed, guns pointed, and proceeded to put the 3 on the ground.

“Three of our people were prepared with a backpack full of first aid supplies and went outside in case anyone would be in need of assistance post-protest.

“We also had bottles of water and towels available for use if needed,” they added, noting that protesters trickled down Locust and E 5th Street as police trailed behind in unmarked pick-up trucks.

Riot officers then spilt out, spurring the protesters to scatter towards Blazing Saddle. Vana B, a showgirl, described how she and other staffers began administering first aid, stressing that she and none of the workers had attended the protests that night. –

“We were doing absolutely NOTHING wrong, but yet they decided to terrorize us, seize our home, and even fucking arrest our family for doing NOTHING. WRONG,” one of the employees, named Vana B, explained in their own Facebook post. “And don’t feel bad for us, seriously, don’t. FEEL FUCKING AWFUL for The Black Community who has to fucking live in a world where this one single night for us is an ENTIRE FUCKING REALITY for them every god damn day. Let that sink in.”

Vana B and the other two employees went through two hours of processing before later being bailed out and release with tickets. Bar co-owner Bryan Smith says that the bar hasn’t been needed for protest support since the incident. But that doesn’t mean Smith and his employees have forgotten the injustice placed upon them and Black citizens. After this, Smith and staff have been contacting representatives and lawmakers and are looking into what they can do to fight police oppression in the future.

As to address the question again to why they staff was still there that night. The Blazing Saddle re-opened just a week before after being closed because of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Yes, there was a curfew scheduled for 9 PM that night and it was not just city-wide, but county-wide on Sunday, May 31st (for the full curfew statement, visit Here is one excerpt.

NOW THEREFORE, the Polk County Board of Supervisors, acting on behalf of Polk County, Iowa and pursuant to Iowa Code Section 331.301(1) enacts the CURFEW ORDER as follows:

2) The curfew is in effect for all of Polk County, Iowa and applies to all individuals except those who are travelling to and from work during those hours, those who require medical assistance or who have a legitimate family emergency and those participating in official religious observance.

The bar that night closed at 8 PM to make sure customers and staff were able to get home before the curfew went into effect. It was not until midnight that night when the incident occurred. Not all the staff did leave before the curfew as the protests lasted all day and staff and owners did not want to leave the space unprotected.  According to one employee’s Facebook post, individuals were charged with Failure to Disperse.

So Instincters –

  • Do you think it is a crime to assist protestors with medical help?
  • Do you think it is a crime to be in your place of business after a curfew?
  • Do you think the staff was in the wrong?

Check out or Facebook post and the comments there for the debate. 


Source: The Blazing Saddle, Out Magazine ,


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