JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax cameras were rolling as officers in tactical gear marched employees in handcuffs out one by one at the Wacko's Gentlemen's Club on Friday night.
Our video captured about 10 performers being taken out of the club in custody, as officers held pieces of cardboard over their faces.
The performers were put into a waiting Jacksonville Sheriff's Office van parked just outside of the entrance. A male employee was also taken into custody. We spoke to a dancer named Angelina as the scene cleared.
"It was super scary," she said. "Yeah, like my stomach was about to jump out!"
Other clubs in Jacksonville are taking legal action in response to recent raids conducted by the city and JSO. They argue those raids violated the constitution rights of the dancers.
Strip clubs Emperor's Gentleman's Club and Flashdancers, along with two performers, filed a federal lawsuit against the city and Sheriff Mike Williams on Thursday.
First Amendment attorney Gary Edinger, based in Gainesville, FL, is representing them in the lawsuit.
He tells Action News Jax those raids violated a 2004 court order thast stated performers should be given a ‘notice to appear,' rather than be arrested for minor violations.
The lawsuit reads in part, "The Final Order prohibited the City and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office from making custodial arrests of performers where (a notice to appear) would be appropriate under Florida law."
He also tells us dancers taken into custody by police in those raids claim they were shackled in leg irons.
"Every one of the performers arrested for municipal violations was forced to wear leg shackles, the lawsuit states.
"The lawsuit that we filed just yesterday seeks to enforce the old 2004 federal court order and also alleges fresh violations under equal protection," said Edinger. "And because of this new development where the police are shackling the dancers, putting them in the irons, we've asserted a Fourth Amendment violation because that's unreasonable seizure."
They're also arguing the raids are a violation of free speech.
"The expression offered by Plaintiffs' businesses is not intended to be, nor is it, obscene as contemplated by contemporary community standards," the lawsuit states. "These performances are presumptively protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States."
While Wacko's is not a party in the recently filed lawsuit, Wacko's was the lead plaintiff in the case resulting in the 2004 court order.
Action News Jax has contacted JSO for a response on today's raid of Wacko's, and the recently filed lawsuit. As soon as we have a response, we'll be sure to update you.
Cox Media Group