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July 30 , 2010

Drag performer arrested for breaking bar’s windows

Cleveland--Union and Bounce nightclubs on Detroit Avenue were the target of vandalism on July 9, not a new occurrence in itself.

What was more surprising was who the police arrested for allegedly breaking the windows: prominent drag performer Divinity, identified in the police report as Tamika L. Jones.

Divinity, who sits on the board of Cleveland Pride and has taken an extensive array of titles over the years, denied any involvement in the attack on the bar, which did over $5,000 in damage.

At 5:20 am on Friday morning July 9, police dispatchers received a call from a woman saying that two African American males were breaking the windows “with small hammers,” according to the police report. “Witness stated that the suspects then walked westbound down Detroit.”

The police took the woman, a neighbor, further west on Detroit, where they came across the duo. The woman then identified Divinity and Chris Friedl as the two she saw smashing windows, and they were arrested.

Police found two claw hammers on the sidewalk just west of Bounce and Union, and they were sent in for fingerprinting.

Both Divinity and Friedl denied that they committed the vandalism, telling officers “that they were ‘coming from downtown.’ ”

When Bounce manager Erin Siwik arrived, she gave police receipts for the windows, which had been recently replaced.

Both Divinity and Friedl were charged on July 26 with vandalism and possession of criminal tools. They will be arraigned on August 9.

While Divinity could not say much on the advice of her attorney, Murray R. Jacobson, she strenuously professed her innocence.

“All I can say is, I know for sure I’m innocent,” she said. “I seen who done it.”

She pointed out that crime around Bounce is not a new occurrence, mentioning a carjacking that occurred a few years ago and previous acts of vandalism.

“Vandalism had been happening at Bounce since the time they opened. This is not the first time the window has been busted out either,” she noted. “These are just some things that I can say, something to think about.”

“Why now, why me? There’s nothing that I can say personally that’s going between me and Bounce. I was at Bounce last year and they didn’t let me perform much, they didn’t let me have my own night because I’m black,” she asserted. Divinity was Miss Bounce 2009.

Allegations of racism have plagued the bar since its earliest days, with accusations that African American patrons were ignored by bartenders and that the bar did not provide programming appealing to the African American LGBT community.

Three of the last five Miss Bounce winners have been African American: Divinity, Akashia and Shari Turner.

“It’s been an issue as far as the racial thing, but that’s not the actual bar, it’s the manager,” Divinity said. “The bar is managed, the owner lives in Columbus, so it’s not the bar, it’s the management.”

“I live my life, I do my shows, I travel the country and do my shows to the best of my ability,” she continued. “I have no time to be sitting here busting out no windows, or even worrying about what the bar is saying about me.”

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