LGBT center taps new security firm amid activist pressure

Center on Halsted

By Adam Rhodes
Medill Reports

The Center on Halsted LGBT community center in Boystown tapped Quantum Security LLC as its new security provider on Wednesday, ousting a security firm owned by a police officer who investigators found had assaulted a black security guard in a racist attack in Lake View in 2013.

The Center said in a statement that Quantum Security will replace its previous security provider Walsh Security effective Feb. 17. It said it chose Quantum Security because it “most closely meets the Center’s comprehensive selection criteria.”

According to the statement, Quantum Security is a certified minority business enterprise and has clients including local LGBT health center Howard Brown Health Center and its Broadway Youth Center, which focuses on LGBT youth and other young people experiencing homelessness or housing instability. Additional details about Quantum Security were not immediately available on Wednesday.

The announcement followed a months-long selection process in which 11 firms, including Walsh Security, bid for the contract after Walsh Security’s owner Thomas Walsh came under scrutiny over the racist incident.

In March 2015, an investigation by a police watchdog found that Walsh, a Lake View area police officer, had assaulted and used racist slurs against a black security guard at the Lucky Horseshoe Lounge, a gay bar in Boystown, in late 2013.

After a spate of anti-black incidents in Boystown last year, activists set their sights on the Center and its contract with Walsh Security. Walsh Security could not be reached on Wednesday.

Jolie Holliman, the Center’s senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion, repeatedly declined to answer questions about what the Center is doing to promote racial equity in Boystown.

Local activist Jamie Frazier, founder and lead pastor at Lighthouse Church of Chicago, a mostly African American, LGBT-inclusive United Church of Christ congregation, called the decision “a victory for racial equity in Boystown and beyond.”

Frazier, who also runs a local activist group, Lighthouse Foundation, had for months pressured the Center to fire Walsh Security over its owner’s past, even before the search process began.

“Black LGBTQ+ folk and our allies came together and that gives me a lot of hope,” he said.

Frazier also told Medill News Service that he felt vindicated by the decision.

“Lighthouse Foundation had existed for about two months, we had no money, no staff and we took on the most powerful LGBT center in the Midwest and won,” Frazier said. “That is no small feat.”

Photo at top: The Center on Halsted named its new security firm Wednesday after activists for months had urged the Center to oust its existing firm, Walsh Security, over its owner’s racist and violent past in the Boystown neighborhood. (Adam Rhodes/MEDILL)