Early in March Samantha’s, a gay club in Manchester, changed its policy of freely admitting women members and allowing them to sign in as guests. One night two women members of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, one a Samantha’s member and the other her guest, were refused admittance. They were told that the club no longer had women members. Later this statement was changed to stating that although the club had women members, no more women would be allowed to join, and existing women members were no longer allowed to sign in guests. A dialogue with the owner of the coub-failed to produce any change in this policy and as it was in direct pooosition to CHE’s objective of equality between women and men, and likely to produce an all-male ghetto club, it was decided that leaflets would be produced to be given to people going into the club, containing details of what had occured and stating the objections. It asked those people who were against the club’s policy to say so to its management.
The first night the leaflets were given out the management told us to go home, it was too cold for fooling about. The second night they were less pleased to see us and an irate/scared member called the police, who told us to go, otherwise we’d all be arrested. Unsure of whether we were committing a legal offence, we decided to move.
On the day after, five of us, (Bobbie Oliver, Alan Blake, Steve Lath, Glenys Parry and Liz Stanley) gave out leaflets to the six people who went into the club. We had consulted two lawyers from the National Council for Civil Liberties who had told us that the only offence we could be arrested for was obstruction, and that if we all walked briskly about and didn’t attempt to prevent anyone from going into the club then we would not be committing any offence.
We behaved exactly as the lawyers suggested, gave out only six leaflets, saw only one car pass by: and yet were arrested. For obstruction.
We had a witness who stood nearby on the same piece of pavement for over twenty minutes, but the police took no notice of him whatsoever. The hearing was held on the 28th March, when we were committed for trial on 21st June. The prosecution said that we were members of Gay Lib and that we were trying to pressure the club into letting people of the same sex dance together. In other words, that the club was a straight one, and that we were trying to turn it gay. CHE has backed our action, and has agreed to finance an appeal if the court finds us guilty, or pay any fine they may impose.
Gay News in issue Number 2 will be reporting the outcome of this particular incident.
It seems to us that it is completely unjustified to discriminate against women in this way, and we wish the women (and men) involved every success in their fight against harassment and discrimination.
It would also seem that the many stories we hear of protection money being paid to certain members of the police force in Manchester by club owners are at times not completely without some element of truth in them. In time we will attempt to find out the truth behind the rumours.