Atlanta Chief of Police Richard Pennington has issued an apology as a result of the raid on the Atlanta Eagle Bar, which occurred last week. Twenty-one officers, nine undercover and twelve uniformed police, in ten squad cars with three paddy wagons, essentially attacked the bar and the sixty-two patrons inside.
At a press conference, Pennington said he takes seriously allegations of police misconduct. He also expressed regret that Danni Lynn Harris, the department’s liason with the gay and lesbian community, had not been notified of the raid.
“She should have been invited,” Pennington said. If she had been there, the chief said, any inappropriate behavior by the officers could have been curtailed.
“This is very unfortunate this incident occurred,” Pennington said. “I’m sorry for what happened.”
Pennington claimed that the department had received previous complaints of drug use and sales at the bar. Additionally, he said that undercover officers had visited the bar on two previous occasions and witnessed sex acts. However, despite this BLUNT SHOW OF FORCE, by Pennington's department, no drugs were discovered on the premises or any of the staff or customers, nor was anyone arrested for public lewdness or lewd acts. Nor has anyone been arrested at the Eagle for either of those charges. "We have a clean record for thirteen years," said one of the Eagle's co-owners.
A demonstration was held on Sunday in protest of the raid. At least ten people have filed formal complaints against the police department.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
WHO SENDS A SQUAD OF UNDERCOVER OFFICERS, TEN POLICE CARS AND TWO PADDY WAGONS TO INVESTIGATE A "NOISE COMPLAINT?" Apparently the Atlanta Police Department.
In a move strangely reminiscent of the recent Fort Worth raid on the Rainbow Lounge, Atlanta police turned out in force to raid the popular Atlanta Eagle leather bar late on Thursday night, September 10. Officers arrested eight members of the Eagle staff, plus several dancers. They also manhandled and harrassed customers while shouting slurs and derogatory comments.
Originally, officers claimed they were investigating an anonymous noise complaint. Then they claimed they were investigating the Eagle because of reports of drug use. Later yet, they claimed reports of sex acts inside and outside of the club led to tghe raid. Yet, at the end of the evening, after shutting down the bar, ordering all the customers face down on the floor, handcuffing many of them, searching everyone and running identity checks -- after all that -- the best that Atlanta's Finest could manage was to arrest a few people because a couple of guys dancing in their underwear did not have "strippers' licenses." The eight staff and dancers were held overnight.
In Atlanta, a city with one of the highest crime rates in the country, THIS IS HOW THE ATLANTA POLICE SPEND THEIR TIME AND TAX-DOLLARS? By harrassing gay citizens for trumped up reasons that they make up on the spot? First, noise. Then, drugs. Then, heaven help us, underwear-dancing?
These cops -- I won't dignify them with the word 'officers' -- shame their badges and their uniforms.
Three hours ago, after numerous requests for information throughout the day from many media sources, the Atlanta Police Department released a terse statement. It is brief and totally non-informative. It says:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 11, 2009
The Atlanta Eagle Club Arrests
“The Atlanta Police Department conducts routine inspections of city businesses with valid alcohol permits. The City received several complaints with descriptive information about alleged criminal conduct at the Atlanta Eagle Club located at 306 Ponce De Leon.
In an effort to ensure compliance with the law, the Police Department investigated the complaints and during the investigation police observed criminal behavior taking place at the Club on September 10, 2009. While the Police were conducting a compliance check it lead to the arrests of eight employees. The Department views all complaints of criminal conduct as serious and will utilize resources to investigate and deter criminal activity in order to create a safe environment.
While there have been allegations of improper behavior by police officers conducting the investigation, there have not been any official complaints filed with the Atlanta Police Department. ”
Sgt. Lisa Keyes, Atlanta Police Department, Public Affairs Unit
Now, note that the statement does not specify the charges or specific nature of the complaint that led to this MASSIVE SHOW OF FORCE, nor does it acknowledge that the worst crime they found was a couple of guys dancing in their Calvin Kleins.
Note also that, although every single customer and staff member in the bar was searched, and virtually every piece of equipment, including cash registers and ice machines, were searched, the Atlanta Gestapo found ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE OF DRUGS. Zip, zilch, nada, no drugs. Not on the customers, not on the staff, not on the premises.
Note also those totally unfounded allegations of sex acts inside the club and out. Ablsolutely nobody was charged with a lewd act.
Indeed, the only noise was the noise made by squad cars, swat teams and mouthy laughing cops. The only lewd acts were the pathetic efforts to come up with a justification after the fact for this attack on the gay community. And the only drugs involved in this sorry matter were the ones these asshat cops must have been smoking beforehand.
"Our problem is with the way our customers were treated," said one of the Eagle's owners, Richard Ramey.
“I’m thinking, this is Stonewall. It’s like I stepped into the wrong decade,” said Nick Koperski, 31, who had just gotten to the bar when the raid, involving more than a dozen police officers, some in plain clothes, commenced.
Eagle bartender Chris Lopez said, “Before I knew it I was being handcuffed to [Robert Kelley]. They were going from patron to patron, having everyone turn out their pockets.”
Danni Lynn Harris, Atlanta Police's liaison to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community, said the volume of complaints she's received from Eagle customers suggest an investigation is warranted. Harris acknowledged that she knew nothing about the raid until she heard about it through the media.
Later, after fumbling through a series of excuses and justifications, Harris said 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.
Harris admitted that no drugs were found, and none of those arrested face narcotics charges.
“It just doesn’t make any sense, with all the bad stuff that’s going on in the city,” Lopez said. “It felt like they had to justify [the raid].”
“What I’ve been hearing is a lot of people saying they were verbally abused, with anti-gay overtones,” the LGBT liaison said.
“I’ve never heard about something like this at a straight establishment,” Koperski said. “I do believe it was prejudicial.”
A rally opposing the raid has been organized for 5 p.m. Sunday at the bar.
“I’m concerned it’s going to be one of those things that blow up before all the facts are known,” Harris said.
Ramey, who said The Eagle has never had trouble with police before, said he may pursue legal action following the raid.
“How can I just sit here and let them get away with doing this to my customers?” he said.
The APD statement acknowledged "allegations of improper behavior by police officers conducting the investigation" but added no official complaints have been filed with the department.
As for that anonymous "noise complaint?" Steve Gower, a community volunteer with the watchdog group, Midtown Ponce Security Alliance, said the neighborhood group does not have a problem with the Eagle.
"I can assure you that the raid was not initiated by MPSA or its patrol, and we have never received any complaints, reports, or observations about criminal activity in any way associated with the Eagle," Gower said. "Further, I have spent much time on the streets of Midtown, and look under every rock to identify problem spots. Eagle is not one of those problem spots, and we have always considered the Eagle to be a good neighbor."
One patron who asked that his name be withheld said the crowd at the bar was “definitely shocked" by the raid. “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 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. He added that he was face down on the ground through the process, hich for him was about half an hour. Others, he said, waited even longer.
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.
“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 walking around joking and taking their job lightly.
“We were treated as criminals from the get-go,” he said. “I definitely felt harassed. It seems like the club was targeted unfairly,” he said. “And it was a raid for anything and everything they could find."
Du-Wayne Ray, store manager of Rawhide Leather, which operates below the Eagle, said that he and one of his employees heard one white uniformed officer say to another, “This is a lot more fun than raiding niggers with crack.”
Ray said he was handcuffed for an hour-and-a-half to two hours on the back deck of The Eagle, and said, “A lot of anti-gay comments were made.”
A reporter for Atlanta Progessive News was actually on the site at the time of the raid and broke the story in the early hours of Friday morning.
Another patron, Allan Vives, who was at the bar during the raid, also offered an account of events to Atlanta Progressive News on Friday.
"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," Vives said in an email.
"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," he continued.
A protest and demonstration in support for the Atlanta Eagle is scheduled for Sunday afternoon. The Atlanta Police Department owes the Eagle and the Atlanta gay community an apology for this ridiculous attack. The statement it issued Friday afternoon is completely inadequate.
When police TABC agents attacked the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth, Texas on the 40th anniverary of the Stonewall rebellion, gay Texans turned out in force to voice their outrage. They demanded answers and apologies and got them. Several agents were fired or reprimanded, and new policies were put in place.
Gay Atlantans should demand no less.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Saturday, September 5, marked Gay Pride Day in Budapest, Hungary. To celebrate the occasion, Whoopi Goldberg sent a message of support and solidarity to the two thousand LGBT marchers.
The embassies of thirteen nations also sent messages in the form of a joint statement signed by all. Those nations included Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Read the Joint Statement from 13 embassies in Budapest:
"On the occasion of the 2009 Budapest Pride Festival, we express our support for, and solidarity with, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in Hungary. We support the right of these communities to use this traditional occasion to march together peacefully and lawfully, in order to express their desire to end the silence surrounding the specific issues that affect them.
“Human rights – including justice, equality, humanity, respect and freedom of expression – and the rule of law are the foundations upon which democratic states are built. Indeed, international human rights law is grounded on the premise that all individuals are entitled to the same rights and freedoms, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“It is this respect for fundamental human values that obliges governments to protect all citizens from violence and to ensure that all people enjoy equal opportunities.
“Today, many individuals face discrimination, both systemic and overt, based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Our governments seek to combat such discrimination by promoting the human rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We urge all governments to ensure that neither sexual orientation nor gender identity form the basis for criminal penalties.
Our governments` policies in this area are in accordance with the principles set out in the Joint statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity delivered at the United Nations General Assembly on 18 December, 2008."
The parade drew support from artists, politicians and human rights organizations around the world, as well. One anti-fascist organization in neighboring Austria shipped in busloads of activists who marched under a giant rainbow flag. Former Hungarian Prime Minister Gerenc Gyurcsany marched with his wife at his side.
Several hundred protesters were also on hand to meet this year's "March for Gay Dignity," but violence was largely prevented due to a massive contingent of security forces who accompanied the marchers. Protesters, Neo-Nazis, and skinheads were kept at bay, allowed no closer than one hundred meters to the parade route. Still, there were a few isolated incidents. An Englishman was punched in the face by a group of skinheads; a woman wearing a Pride tee-shirt was beaten at a bus stop after the parade ended. A sixty year old man protesting the event was knocked to the ground and taken to the hospital after police forced the protestors back. There were a few reports of tear gas and baton charges by the police, and more than 40 arrests were made, most for possession of weapons and riotous behavior. The majority of those arrested were released the next day.
Because of the large security contingent, there were few onlookers or well-wishers along the route, however, television news stations gave broad coverage to the march and the marchers later that evening.
Protestors, Neo-Nazis and Skinheads mingle with confused European soccer fans who were in town for a major game. The protesters are chanting "filthy fags!" and various other obscenities.
Friday, September 4, 2009
On May 6 2009, Maine became the fifth state to recognize Marriage Equality for all when Governor Baldacci signed into law a marriage bill passed by the Maine legislature.
However, anti-gay forces have succeeded in pushing a "people's veto," which would overturn the new law. The petition drive to force the measure required only 55,000 signatures. Working churches across the state, the bigots collected twice that number. Baldacci, who signed the new marriage law into effect, has now also signed the formal proclamation that puts the so-called “people's veto” on the November ballot.
“I fully support this legislation and believe it guarantees that all Maine citizens are treated equally under our state's civil marriage laws,” Baldacci said about the gay marriage law. “But I also have a constitutional obligation to set the date for the election once the secretary of state has certified that enough signatures have been submitted.”
The predominantly Catholic group National Organization for Marriage has promised to pour money into the repeal effort, and the Catholic Church has also promised support. The Catholic Diocese of Portland was responsible for forming "Stand for Marriage Maine," the group primarily spearheading the petition drive.
*** To hear an audio of NOM president Maggie Gallagher and Executive Director Brian Brown talking about their anti-gay stances, go here:
I've already blogged previously about the situation in Maine. Please read that entry if you haven't already done so. Despite these early entries into the television market, Equality Maine can expect to be massively outspent by anti-gay foes. Economic times are tough, but if you can afford a donation, go to their website and make a contribution. The gay community doesn't need another "first we have it - then we don't" repeat of California. Fight to keep marriage equality for all in Maine. Fight now and fight hard.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
I'm normally a regular listener of Michael Signorile's show on Sirius OutQ Radio, but a segment of the August 31st show angered me so much that I called the program and actually got in. In the fourth hour of today's show, Signorile interviewed a radical fundamentalist pastor named Steven L. Anderson, who spearheads a tiny church in Tempe, Arizona. Anderson came to public attention recently by announcing that he was praying for President Obama's death. Then one of his "flock" (what is a "flock" but a collection of sheep?) turned up at an Obama rally with an assault rifle, winning more media attention for the church. Next, Anderson staged a confrontation with border patrol agents in New Mexico and posted the film - yeah, he conveniently had a camera in the front seat - on YouTube. In a very short time, Anderson has managed to score coverage or interviews on almost every major media outlet.
Oh, and guess what? Steven L. Anderson hates gay people. He really, really hates gay people. His views and pronoucements against gay people are vile and hateful. "All gay people should be killed." "All gay people are predators and child molesters." Etc., etc., etc. The Bible says we're bad. Faggot-this and faggot-that. Yawn.
Unless you're living under a rock on a very dark island in a far corner of the world, you've heard everything this so-called pastor has to say about gays and lesbians, all the bile, all the filth, all the insults - you've heard it all before.
Yet, following quick in the footsteps of CNN and MSNBC and a number of other news outlets, Michael Signorile gave this uneducated, ignorant, lunatic gas bag thirty minutes of airtime. Worse, Signorile's interview technique, usually sharp, somehow crumbled as the segment turned into a shouting match. Signorile allowed this uneducated, ignorant, lunatic gas bag to totally own the period with one outrageous declaration after the next, including that he hoped Signorile died "of brain cancer just like Teddy Kennedy."
Signorile got nothing new or revealing or even particularly informative out of this interview.
The pastor, on other hand, got exactly what he wanted -- attention, airtime, a national platform from which to spout his ugly pronoucements, and this time the opportunity to spout it right in the faces of Signorile's audience. You can bet that he'll be bragging about that, and in Biblical language. He went into the lion's den and bearded the beast.
On the air with Signorile following the interview, I criticized Signorile for what I considered a dismal performance. Signorile response was that he was -exposing- this pastor, that homophobes like this pastor -need- to be exposed. But Signorile, in fact, failed to expose the man. He argued with him; he shouted back at him; the two of them got frankly hysterical with each other. But did Signorile in any way really -expose- the pastor? I think not.
Signorile failed to mention for his listeners that Anderson holds no divinity degree. He holds no degree of any kind. Further, Anderson has been ordained by no denomination. His "Baptist" church is not affiliated with any Baptist denomination. Anderson is a pastor simply because he's given himself the title. Still further, Signorile failed to mention that the so-called "church" of which Anderson claims to be pastor is, in fact, a dinky class-room sized, basement level storefront next to a pawn shop in a tiny strip mall with no more than a miniscule number of members, estimated generously to be 20-50 at most.
Signorile responded to me at one point, "Don't you think it would come across as elitist to point out that (Anderson) had no degree?"
Elitist? Well, no. In fact, I don't. Facts are not elitist. They're the facts.
Cockroaches like Anderson are fed and watered by the media, and Signorile unwisely served up a full course meal to a noisome insect. Anderson has no message at all unless he has a platform or a stage from which to deliver it. Signorile, along with CNN and MSNBC and other media outlets, are handing Anderson that stage. By feeding Anderson's manic need for attention, they encourage him to more and more outrageous actions. The media - and this includes Signorile - have to take at least a portion of responsibility for allowing this scripture-spewing fool, who believes God wants all men to pee standing up, to spread his hate and inspire his followers. Signorile has not exposed Steven L. Anderson. He has enabled him.
I enjoy Signorile's show on OutQ. In fact, it's just about the only program worth listening to on that network. But with all the important issues deserving attention in our community, a thirty minute hate-fest with another garden variety homophobic Christoid was a waste.
Steven L. Anderson, 29 -- Is this the face of an angel or a closet-case?