NCSF Protests Raid on Atlanta Eagle
by: Leigha Fleming & Susan Wright
Lawless cops are a threat to everyone in America
The Atlanta community was stunned when the Eagle was raided on September 10th: the local police illegally detained 62 patrons and 8 employees, searching them without a warrant, reasonable suspicion, or probable cause. Some were forced to lie face-down on the floor for over two hours. The strong use of force included the presence of the "Red Dog unit" which typically deals with crimes such as gang violence.
The police arrested eight employees for dancing in their underwear along with patrons during "Underwear Night", a weekly fetish event. The APD alleges that behavior violates a local ordinance that requires the bar to obtain a license for adult entertainment. According to the patrons, police officers shoved people to the ground, threatened to hit them in the head with barstools, handcuffed people, made racist and anti-gay comments, and forced patrons to remain flat on the ground, with their faces against a floor covered in some areas with spilled beer and broken glass, even long after they had been searched and found to be unarmed.
A Federal lawsuit alleging multiple civil rights violations was filed on November 24th on behalf of the patrons and the employees of the Atlanta Eagle by Lambda Legal, Southern Center for Human Rights, and Dan Grossman as representation for the plaintiffs. NCSF is actively involved in supporting the Atlanta Eagle and the plaintiffs in this suit. In speaking with Leigha Fleming NCSF Board Chair, Wednesday afternoon, attorney Dan Grossman said, "NCSF's publicity and support s very welcome and needed in this effort. The police believed that they could violate the rights of these men precisely because they were in a gay _leather_ bar." "We need everyone in the Alanta community getting involved in this," says Fleming. "There's a mayoral election coming up. Ask your candidates their opinions of the police action at the Eagle and whether or not they support the kind of bigotry and discrimination exhibited. Blog about it. Talk about it. All the various Eagle's around the country should link to this. Support this lawsuit and support NCSF."
NCSF joins state and local representatives in urging everyone to file a complaint if they were present at the Eagle on September 10th. You can file a complaint with the Atlanta Police Department and the Atlanta Citizen Review Board who are investigating the raid:
CONFIDENTIALITY IS GUARAN-TEED UNDER ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE. If you ask a lawyer for legal advice, the lawyer can't reveal anything you tell him, including your name: the police can't require it, your name can't be subpoenaed, and the court can't demand it. If a lawyer breaks attorney-client privilege, he or she will be disbarred.
"It's so important that our patrons come forward," says Richard Ramey, co-owner of the Eagle. "Everyone needs to hear how badly our civil rights were violated."
"Please call today!" urges Susan Wright, spokesperson for NCSF. "This is a clear human rights violation. If we don't speak up, they won't stop persecuting us. We are the only ones who can fight for our rights."
Shortly after the raid, NCSF sent a letter to Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington, Major Khirus Williams (Zone 5), Mayor Shirley Franklin and the City of Atlanta Human Relations Commission demanding an apology for this illegal behavior by the local police. Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington held a press conference September 14th, stating that the gay leather bar was raided because of anonymous complaints that came through the mayor's office.
"There was no need to show up with three paddy wagons and over 20 police officers. No drugs or weapons were found," says Fleming. "Doesn't the Atlanta Police Department have better things to do with taxpayer money than conduct witch hunts against men who may have been dancing in their underwear?"
For the month of June 2009, the last month criminal statistics citywide for the City of Atlanta were available (see the Uniform Crime Reports on the Atlanta Police Department website at http://www.atlantapd.org/index.asp?nav=Stats: 10 murders, 6 rapes, over 2,000 robberies and larcenies and over 500 auto thefts were committed. In Zone 5 where the Atlanta Eagle is located, more than 35 crimes against persons including murder and aggravated assault and more than 700 crimes against property including auto theft, robbery and burglary were committed.
The Atlanta community spoke out against the violent police raid on September 19th, calling it a blatant "disregard for civil rights and common sense". The rally was organized by GLBTATL and mem-bers of Atlanta's LGBT community and supporters in front of Atlanta City Hall. According to GLBTATL's press release about the rally:
"To concerned citizens, such as GLBTATL, it seems that this police raid was not meant to investigate or deter crime. Rather, it sent a message that the LGBT community, comprising as much as one-eighth of Atlanta's residents, is second-class and not deserving of the same basic human respect as others. With only a paltry apology issued via the A.P.D. media office, this message of disrespect, a message that can easily turn into hate, has begun to echo throughout the gay community, and Atlanta as a whole."