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Pride Fest Precinct

John Wisor, the owner of 11th Street Precinct in the Village of East Davenport, shared this photo, which he said is evidence Pride fest organizers were trying to get under his skin. He said an argument started Friday when volunteers refused to relocate the portable toilets he described as "urinals right outside my front door."

The resentment appeared to be building for weeks.

During planning for last weekend's street festival to kick off Pride Week, Village of East Davenport businessman John Wisor already was showing signs of anger.

At least a half-dozen volunteers who were in the East Village on Saturday say Wisor took his anger out on them, shouting profanity-laced anti-gay slurs, including "(F-bomb) queers" and "faggots."

On Sunday, Wisor denied using the language, saying police, organizers, the city council, other merchants, volunteers and event sponsors all were to blame for his upset over an event that never should have been allowed in the Village of East Davenport in the first place.

"This is typical, them ginning up stories," he said of reports of his verbal abuse. When told that several people confirmed his outbursts, Wisor added, "I've been down that road, too; everyone's got a witness."

Davenport police could not confirm on Monday whether several witnesses and city officials were correct when they said at least one police body camera captured Wisor's rant. A police spokesman said the content of the cameras has not yet been reviewed.

"Everything stems from poor planning, execution, communication, and utter lack of respect," Wisor said.

And he's partly correct; wholly correct when it comes to a lack of respect — on his part.

Here's what went down:

Wisor, the owner of 11th Street Precinct and many other properties in the Village, said he was not notified the Davenport City Council was considering a request by QC Pride to close off part of 11th Street to hold a street festival. Originally scheduled for the area of Mary's on 2nd in Davenport, plans changed when Mary's was struck by a stolen SUV, sustaining considerable damage.

A member of QC Pride works for Baked Beer & Bread Co. in the Village and asked his bosses if they would consider sponsoring the event.

"It was very last-minute because of the accident at Mary's," Baked co-owner Bill Sheeder said Monday. "They needed someone with a liquor license, and we agreed."

Sheeder went to a council meeting in May, prepared to submit his permit. But a couple of fellow merchants also came to the meeting because they had concerns about the planned street closure, fencing along 11th Street and the possibility of competing food vendors.

Alderwoman Rita Rawson tabled the request to hold Pride's event in the Village, she said, until the merchants could be heard. So, an emergency meeting of the Village Merchants Association was called about a week later. Rawson attended that meeting, too.

"It was a really good meeting," she said. "At the end, everybody was happy with the details. I was very impressed by the professionalism and the willingness to compromise on both sides."

In an email to merchants on May 9, Camp McClellan Cellars owner Julie Keehn wrote: "Let me begin by saying we had a great discussion with Rita Rawson from the City of Davenport, Bill Sheeder from Baked and Andrew Glasscock from Street Fest. All of the boards' concerns were addressed properly, and we are excited to welcome StreetFest to the Village of East Davenport."

Wisor's response included the following: "I want to hear exact details of security since my bar is open until 2 a.m., and I don't want a bunch of drunken idiots running in my bar after Fest closes. I want 20 Davenport policemen covering this event until 3 a.m.

"I'm not excited to have a for-profit event held in front of my business, blocking parking for my regular customers. I wouldn't be so excited if I were you. I want a detailed answer to my security question."

Wisor is of the opinion that, because he owns property in the Village, the city is required to notify him of any plans related to the area and to consult him on details about the role of police. In fact, the reason he taped off access to the parking lots he owns in the Village prior to the Pride fest — when he leaves them open for other Village events like the Kwik Star Criterium, which closed 11th Street on Memorial Day — is because the city didn't send him its security plan, he said.

But then he also said that no merchants were aware of the council meeting, and he wasn't told about the special merchants' meeting. However, other Village merchants attended the council meeting, and one of Wisor's own employees attended the merchants' meeting.

"None of the shop owners were notified of what was going on," Wisor continued to insist on Sunday. "I lost $10,000 in business over the weekend. All the businesses suffered."

That's not true, either.

Rawson said she spent good chunks of the weekend in the Village, mostly to take note of how the event was handled, so she is well-informed when the next request comes along. She said the condition of the Village on Saturday morning was "spotless," and the restaurants and bars were "packed."

Sara Stiles, manager at Grumpy's, used the same word: "We were packed," she said. "We didn't suffer any by having Pride fest here."

Stiles would like to see QC Pride's event return to the Village, which would give organizers much more time than they had this year for planning. The fencing wasn't quite right, she said, but the weekend was a big hit for the bars.

Of course, there is much more to the Village than bars. But other events cater more to the retail stores that lost traffic over the Pride weekend.

The final straw for Wisor came when volunteers arrived Friday to set up their tent and two portable toilets, which are used for free AIDS/STI testing. A Precinct employee approached them, they said, asking them to move the toilets away from the front of the building, and the volunteers did so.

But it wasn't enough for Wisor.

"They put those urinals right outside my front door," he said. "Does it take a rocket scientist to see that it'll stink and come into my business?"

In fact, the two toilets were on the street and not in front of Wisor's business and had signs posted on them, "Not for public use." The public toilets were across the street and east of the Precinct.

"He said we had no right to be there," said Cody Hootman, a member of QC Pride and employee of Baked. "We said we were not going to move the toilets, and he said, 'Yes, you are, you (expletive deleted) queers."

Wisor said the "real story" is about suffering businesses, not name-calling.

"Village events are for the Village," he said. "If the Village isn't about the businesses and what we do around here, what is it?"

Alderwoman Rawson had an answer for that: "The Village is still a part of the City of Davenport. City streets are city streets. It's just like having an event downtown."

But Wisor insists he was wronged. He should have dictated the planning. He should have been involved in the security detail.

"You don't treat people like this," he said. "It's about civility and being able to work with people."

Since it was a telephone interview, I have no idea whether he said it with a straight face.

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Contact Barb Ickes at 563-383-2316 or bickes@qctimes.com

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