Friday, September 18, 2009

The Atlanta Bar Raid: A First Hand Account

Last week Atlanta’s GLBT community was shocked by a police raid on the popular gay bar Atlanta Eagle. After receiving an undetermined number of anonymous tips, police raided the Atlanta Eagle on September 10, forcing patrons to the ground and handcuffing them before arresting eight employees of the bar. Witnesses at the scene described the police yelling at the patrons and making derogatory jokes and comments about GLBT people. One of the bar patrons shared with us his story:

"My roommate and I were there for the police raid at the Eagle on September 10, 2009. We had arrived about 20 minutes before the raid took place. Everyone was ordered to get on their stomachs and face down during this ordeal. As far as I could tell everyone was searched at least once, most of us twice. Most, but not all, of the officers were incredibly derogatory and insulting whether they found evidence of drugs or not. When asking why, we were met with derisive remarks and no explanation. I am furious at how we were treated and can't believe that this has happened in this day and age. The officers present were incredibly rude to anyone who dared to ask what was happening and several were openly hostile towards the gay patrons. Of the officers present, there was one female who was running searches on the IDs of those whose licenses were collected. She was not only rude but seemed to be enjoying the event. At one point, she stopped what she was doing and walked over to the television and asked her colleagues what the score to the game playing on the television this point there were still innocent patrons laying face down on the floor. When pressed for answers none were given, only further threats that something worse would happen if we didn't capitulate to the demands of these "law enforcement" officers. I'm disgusted at what I went through. I'm disgusted at what I witnessed. I'm embarrassed for this city. I hope this is the beginning of a discussion that ends in the dismissal of several Atlanta police officers and whoever initiated this act. It is UNBELIEVABLE that the patrons of one of Atlanta's gay bars would be subjected to this kind of treatment given the high rate of serious crimes that are being perpetrated on a daily basis? Is this really the greatest concern of the Atlanta police department...especially in a city where the daily news rarely goes without some report of violent crimes against others? This is just unbelievable, a serious embarrassment. I can't express how angry I am."

Thankfully the community is pulling together to support the bar with one rally last weekend and another one scheduled for tomorrow. Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington has pledged to investigate complaints against his officers, but many questions and anger about the incident remain.

To read more about the raid of the Atlanta Eagle and how the community is responding click here.