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At Least 26 Arrested in 'Stonewall'-Style Gay Sex Sting at D.C. Park

Meridian Hill Park

The U.S. Park Police has been accused of dispatching plainclothes officers to entice men.

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At least 26 men have been arrested at Washington, D.C.'s Meridian Hill Park in the past year, reports the Washington Blade.

The men, detained for cruising by U.S. Park Police, face one or multiple charges that include disorderly conduct, lewd acts, unlawful entry, and simple assault (sexual).

Some of the defendants are reporting that they were arrested by undercover officers who initiated sexual advances, according to John Albanes, a defense attorney in D.C., who corresponded with several of their lawyers.

"Undercover plainclothes Park Police officers entice men in Meridian Hill Park for purportedly consensual sexual activity and then proceed to arrest their targets for a crime (often misdemeanor sexual abuse)," Albanes told the Blade.

"I find this pattern extremely disturbing and reminiscent of the Stonewall days when gay men were often the target of police discrimination. The tactics used in these cases just fly in the face of proper police work and should be exposed," he added.

In a response to the Blade, Sgt. Eduardo Delgado, a Park Police spokesman, did not deny that the officers were plainclothes. However, he also did not address whether they set out to "entice men."

"The U.S. Park Police receives complaints about lewd acts that occur within Meridian Hill," Delgado said. "As with any other complaint of illegal activity, we then take actions to stop it. Plainclothes officers are just one method of enforcement sometimes used to deter, stop, and/or arrest violators within the parks."

None of the plaintiffs or their attorneys have spoken publicly yet -- likely due to the plaintiffs being closeted, Albanes said.

Meridian Hill Park, known informally as Malcolm X Park, sits in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of D.C., near Adams Morgan. Its grounds -- known for their neoclassicist style and Cascading Waterfall, a 13-basin aqueous artwork -- are a National Historic Landmark maintained by the National Park System.

In 2000, an anonymous writer for the Washington City Paper detailed a visit to the "secret garden" of nighttime Meridian Hill Park, which had developed a reputation for cruising, mostly among Black men. The article wrote about the "Orwellian procedure" of officers "panning searchlights across the brush to see who and/or what might be hidden away in there" and "the legendary Park Service officer with the 'really blue eyes' who, I hear, if given some decent head, will save you from taking a trip down to jail."

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.
Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.