Chicago’s Queer Community Center is “Protected” by a Racist Cop

Security Chief Thomas Walsh is a bigoted, hate-crime-committing threat to the LGBTQ community of Chicago.

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The Center on Halsted is a decades-old LGBTQ community center on the city’s north side, Boystown neighborhood. The Center offers countless beneficial resources to community members. It offers free HIV testing, fitness and self-defense classes, support groups, lectures, youth groups, and resources for senior citizens.

Tonight, the Center is hosting an ice cream social for transgender and nonbinary people. Last year I organized a clothing swap at the Center that left dozens and dozens of trans and gender non-conforming people with new, affirming clothes. For years I attended the Center’s regular Genderqueer Chicago discussion group, where I found community resources, new friends, and a ton of emotional and social support when I needed it most. I’ve attended more events at the Center than I can name.

The Center has helped countless queer people over the years. And. Also. The Center on Halsted’s security team regularly harasses Black teens, sometimes going so far as to drag them forcibly out of the building by their hair. I’ve heard countless Black queer people talk about how the Center is a hostile, even dangerous environment for them. I’ve seen the security strong-arm marginalized people myself.

The Center on Halsted’s security firm, Walsh Security, is owned and operated by a Chicago Police Department Cop, Thomas Walsh. In 2017, Walsh was suspended from the CPD for beating a Black man, throwing him to the ground, and repeatedly calling him the n-word.

In 2013, Walsh was in a bar in Boystown, Chicago’s most well-known gayborhood. A drunk patron began verbally insulting another man in the bar, who worked for Chicago’s Parks Department. Walsh rushed in, and slammed the drunk patron against the wall.

Then the bar’s bouncer, a Black man, rushed in to help Walsh with the resulting altercation. Instead of accepting the bouncer’s help, Walsh lashed out at him, pushing him to the ground and striking him, calling him the n-word over and over and over.

It took five years, but Walsh eventually met consequences for his actions. The CPD suspended him for just 60 days.

Walsh’s other employer, the LGBT Center on Halsted (also located in Boystown)… did nothing.

And continues to do nothing.

Walsh security has had a forboding presence at the Center on Halsted for many years now. Last year, the Center paid Walsh’s company over $130,000 to “secure” the building. Here is the Center’s 990 tax form, which is available on their website:

I and many other LGBTQ Chicagoans find it absolutely reprehensible that the Center on Halsted expends valuable resources employing a bigot. Walsh Security actively conspires to make the Center on Halsted a dangerous, unwelcoming space to queer youth of color, queer trans women of color, and any other Black or brown person who enters the space.

For years, the CEO of the Center on Halsted, Modesto Tico Valle, has refused to say anything about Walsh’s crimes, or why the Center continues to pursue business with Walsh Security. It’s clear that from his perspective, hiring a racist, hate-crime-committing cop was so uncontroversial and consequence-free that there was no need for him to re-examine it. That must change, now.

This Pride Month, support LGBTQ Chicagoans of color by calling the Center on Halsted and telling them that Walsh Security Must Go.

Together, we can help to make Boystown’s lavish, well-funded LGBTQ Center a more accessible and safe space for the queer people who need it the most.

Call the Center at 773.472.6469 and ask to leave a message for Modesto Tico Valle (the CEO) or Jim Klein (Operations Officer). Here is a script:

“Hello, my name is _______ and I’m calling because I am concerned that the Center on Halsted has a contract with Walsh Security. Walsh Security’s owner, Thomas Walsh, was suspended from the Chicago Police Department for brutalizing a Black man and yelling racial slurs at him.How can the Center support all queer people when its security is managed by a racist?

I urge you to end the Center’s contract with Walsh Security immediately, to ensure the rights and safety of all queer people, particularly Black people. Until the contract with Walsh Security is ended, I will continue spreading the word to my friends and fellow community members about the harm to queer Black people that is currently being done.”

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