Peace has always eluded our community. After the 2016 shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, I often find myself worrying about what I’d do if I ever found myself in such a horrible situation. Philadelphia’s Gayborhood is meant to be a place where queer people can find safety, community, and support. We should be able to see our friends, meet interesting people, and have fun without fear of violence. Eric Pope was not taken from us by a mad gunman; he was taken by the people who are supposed to keep us safe.
While Pope’s death is appalling, it comes as little surprise to those of us who frequent Tabu and other bars in the area. Tabu contracts with Mainline Private Security, a private firm which has received a number of complaints, from patrons and performers, about their security team. Outward homophobia and transphobia are a regular part of dealing with Mainline guards, and Mainline has been sued a dozen times since 2020, often for egregious acts of violence. Drag performers have reported being shoved and verbally accosted. We know these security guards are not our allies, and yet Tabu and other bars allow them to continue to harass and assault us.
Tabu owner Jeffrey Sotland’s claim that the man who killed Pope was not a bar employee would be laughable if it were not so disgusting. Tabu has a responsibility to keep their patrons safe. Instead they continue to contract with a company whose employees have attacked us before. Eric Pope was punched by someone who works at Tabu. He was laid out in the street in front of Tabu. And when they dragged his limp body from the gutter, he was propped up against Tabu. This is Tabu’s responsibility.
The Philadlephia LGBT+ community deserves better from Sotland, the other Tabu owners, and every other gay bar that contracts with Mainline. And so I ask them: How will you deal with this tragedy? What will you do to make sure it never happens again? And until you can assure the safety of the people you happily profit from, why should we trust, or patronize, any of you?
Eric Pope should be alive. When Tabu’s security team punched him in the head, it was another event in decades of brutality against the LGBT+ community. The tragedy of Eric’s death was foreseeable. It was avoidable, if only people would listen. May he rest in peace. And may the responsible parties act before this happens again.
Peter Macoretta is a resident of the Gayborhood and a member of the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus.