September 12th, 2009
Here’s the thing I find very suspicious about Thursday’s raid on the Atlanta Eagle, which involved ten police cars and fifteen officers. After having the patrons lie on the floor during the raid and endure insults from the Police Department, the police arrested eight employees for providing adult entertainment. Apparently, they had patrons dancing in their underwear — it was underwear night — and that constitutes “adult entertainment.” Never mind that this apparel is generally not dissimilar to that found at Atlanta public swimming pools. But that was such a horrific crime for Atlanta that eight employees were detained in Atlanta’s city jails overnight. Six of the eight remained detained until well into the following afternoon when two Atlanta City Council candidates intervened and contacted a judge who finally set bail.
And there’s this description of the raid itself:
“I had been there less that five minutes, around 11 p.m.,” the patron told Southern Voice. “It was a pretty slow night, and I was just talking with someone by the dance floor when all of a sudden, a police office officer, I\’m not sure if he was in plain clothes or not, came through, knocked something over and said, ‘everyone get down.\'”
The man initially thought it might have been a fight between patrons, but after seeing several officers enter the dance floor area, he knew it was serious.
“I was on my knees after they told us to get down, but then an officer grabbed me by the back of the neck and pushed me down,” said the patron. “It wasn\’t necessarily abuse, but I definitely think they used a heavy hand.”
Anyone who tried arguing with authorities was told to “Shut up,” and “don\’t speak until spoken to,” the man said.
“It was a full on police raid. For customers who were just having a drink, hanging out, it was definitely shocking,” he said.
According to the patron, while everyone was still face down, police searched the crowd individually without asking permission, and later took everyone\’s ID. Once a patron\’s ID was cleared, he was asked to leave the building.
The source said he was face down on the ground through the process, which for him was about half an hour. Others, he said, waited longer.
“I heard some laughter and casual conversation during the event,” he continued. “It made me mad because I was forced on the floor, searched and held down, not able to talk while they were around joking and taking their job lightly.
“We were treated as criminals from the get-go,” he said. “I definitely felt harassed.”
All because, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, of this:
The raid, conducted by the vice squad, was a result of a tip sent to Mayor Shirley Franklin’s office alleging “illicit sex” at The Eagle, Harris said. Ironically, Franklin’s election and re-election campaigns were headquartered in space adjoining the leather bar.
This contradicts an earlier claim of “several complaints,” which itself seems suspicious given that no one was arrested for “illicit sex” or selling drugs, which were two of the reasons offered for the raid. No drugs were found in the entire search (which I think is rather remarkable for any large well-attended bar, gay or straight.)
Does the Mayor’s office and Atlanta Police Department pursue anonymous tips against straight bars? That’s what Dan Savage wants to know:
I think we should find out if the mayor of Atlanta will order a police raid on any bar—gay or straight—based on a single (and apparently phony) tip about drug use. So, hey, here’s a list of bars in Atlanta and here’s the mayor’s contact info…
Mayor Shirley Franklin
If you know or even just suspect that drugs are being used or sold—or adult entertainment provided without a city permit—on the premises of any bar or club in Atlanta, send a tip off the mayor’s office now. If every bar in Atlanta winds up gets raided—if 10 police cars, 15 officers, and 10 undercover officers get sent to every bar in town—then we’ll know that the raid on the Atlanta Eagle wasn’t motivated by anti-gay bias. Mayor Franklin is standing by waiting for your tips!
Meanwhile, the police’s LGBT Liaison Officer Dani Lynn Harris has been kept completely out of the loop. She didn’t know about the raid until she was contacted by the media, and as of Friday afternoon she still didn’t have an incident number on the case, so she couldn’t access basic information like how many officers were on the scene or who was arrested on what charges.
A protest is planned for Sunday at 5 p.m at the Eagle parking lot. A Facebook page has been created for the rally.
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