Los Angeles: Forty years ago on April 10, 1976, the Los Angeles Police Department stages a massive raid on a leather-community fundraiser at the Mark IV Baths. The event offered consenting SM enthusiasts who agreed to be auctioned for role-playing as slaves, with proceeds from the winning bids going to the Los Angeles Gay Community Services Center and other gay charities. 

Deploying helicopters, buses and dozens of cops — and bringing along television news crews — the LAPD invaded the gathering. Nearly 400 people were detained and 42 were arrested, including John Embry, the publisher of the leather magazine Drummer, and the first "Mr. Drummer" title-holder, Val Martin, who served as auctioneer. The police released public statements claiming they had halted an actual slave auction and describing the participants as dangerous perverts.

Val Martin later recalled, "We repeated many times what the [playful and charitable] purpose of the auction was. They made us lay on the ground, hands on our necks. They treated us like animals.... They were taking pictures, calling us names."

Ultimately, the district attorney charged only four of the participants, changing the violation from "slave dealing" to "prostitution." All received fines and community service. The homophobia displayed by the LAPD drew strong condemnation from gay leaders and the gay media — and the ACLU later dubbed the raid "one of the more blatant landmarks in the history of police paranoia with regards to the gay community."

Located at 4424 Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles, the structure that housed the Mark IV is extant — and now serves as a gay men's sex club named FLEXspas Los Angeles (flex baths).

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