Raid on iconic Atlanta Eagle bar highlights A.P.D.'s disregard for civil rights, common sense
SEPTEMBER 17, 2009
In protest of the violent raid on the 22-year-old Atlanta Eagle bar on September 10, GLBTATL and members of Atlanta's LGBT community (and supporters) will be gathering in front of Atlanta City Hall on Saturday, September 19, at 12:00 p.m.
GLBTATL, made up of members of Atlanta's LGBT community, and our allies are highly concerned with the Atlanta Police Department in their handling of the police action against the Atlanta Eagle bar on September 10, 2009. We believe that no person, regardless of sexual orientation, race, or other aspect, should be treated in the manners alleged in the official complaints. We are further disappointed in the sluggish response from the Atlanta City Council, and particularly with the abject silence of Mayor Shirley Franklin. We join with other local and national groups in calling for an immediate, transparent investigation into the events. Should the allegations of improper police conduct prove true, the offending parties should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. As community leaders, we want it to be understood that our trust in the protection and dedication of Atlanta Police Department officers has been violated.
No community should live in fear of its protectors in law enforcement, whether in Fort Worth, TX (where a similar raid occurred in June at that city's "Rainbow Lounge"), Atlanta, or anywhere in America. As Atlantans, as Americans, and as humans, we demand respect, fairness, and common sense from our law enforcement and our government. We recognize that this issue represents a gross violation of the civil rights, and likely violation of United States Constitution-conferred rights, of Atlanta's citizens. Though as activists we may represent Atlanta's gay community, these events are a pandemic issue of violation of civil, and basic human rights.
LAW ENFORCEMENT METHODS QUESTIONED:
Common sense and precedent form the backbone of American treatment of law towards citizens. If the A.P.D.'s allegations of past illegal acts at Atlanta Eagle are true, we ask why such dramatic measures as occurred on September 10 were necessary. If, as in A.P.D.'s later media statement, permit violations were the reason for the raid, are there not procedures through which the owners and management of Atlanta Eagle could be made aware -- methods that would not have resulted in the violent humiliation, unwarranted personal searches, and possibly illegal background checks performed upon 62 innocent bystanders?
We are all reasonable people and we believe in fair and reasonable action by our law enforcement officials. If their undercover work and actions on September 10 came about as a result of only two questionably factual complaints, why were the owners and management of Atlanta Eagle not made aware of the complaints and offered a chance to remedy the situation? Since neither illegal drugs, nor any serious act of harm in which the business was obviously complicit, were ever found as part of the investigation process , we are hard-pressed to find any justifiable precedent for the behavior of Atlanta Police Officers as described in the official complaints.
In short: Why the raid? Don't we have more important crimes to address? Why not get Atlanta Eagle's owners involved, once the alleged illegal acts were identified?
THIS FAR, AND NO FURTHER:
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.
We must be clear: This far, and no further. The alleged police behavior on September 10 cannot be tolerated again, without truly justifiable cause. Atlanta stands together, to say that we will not be silent until our grave concerns, echoed over the past week by numerous local and national organization and media outlets, are addressed thoroughly. We look forward to a future day when we can rebuild our bridge of trust between Atlanta's LGBT community and Atlanta law enforcement.
STANDING IN PROTEST ON SATURDAY:
On Saturday, September 19, 2009, at 12:00 p.m., concerned Atlantans and others will assemble at Atlanta City Hall, 55 Trinity Ave., Atlanta, Georgia. A small number of speakers will provide statements of either prepared or personal nature, and may be available for media interviews. Based on Internet discussion, we also expect many attendees to be standing in protest during the event.
Media are encouraged to attend. For more information, call 888-452-8285. Calls will be routed directly to the event organizers. Separate interview opportunities may be available, and event organizers are happy to direct media to the appropriate persons.