BREAKING: Atlanta Gay Bar Raided, Harassment Seen (UPDATE 1)
By Matthew Cardinale, News Editor, The Atlanta Progressive News (September 11, 2009)
(APN) ATLANTA -- At approximately 11:30pm on Thursday, September 10, 2009, a gay bar in Atlanta, the Atlanta Eagle, was raided by the Atlanta Police Department (APD).
The present writer for Atlanta Progressive News--who had come to the bar to dance--witnessed as several bar staff and male dancers were arrested between approximately 12:30am and 1am and taken away in paddy wagons, but it is not immediately clear why. One source stated he believed it was because the bar did not have a license for the dancers. (CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated patrons had been arrested; no patrons were arrested).
About ten police cars and about 15 cops raided the bar, allegedly looking for drugs.
However, the police were said to have ordered all patrons to get on the ground--including patrons who were just dancing or standing at the bar--and numerous patrons said people were handcuffed indiscriminately.
Bar patrons were furious at the aggressive and indiscriminate treatment and called the incident "harassment."
Patrons also stated that at least three undercover cops were present. One patron stated he knew this because he saw the undercover police first without their badges, mingling with the crowds, and then again with their badges on.
However, after all the arrests were made, this writer noticed as several plainclothes men--several Black males and a couple White males--talked in a circle with police officers. They then went to their cars and drove off. It was apparent about 10 undercover police had been there.
One police officer stated, as he and others left the parking lot, "This is gonna keep happening if we keep getting complaints from the community." The officer did not specify what complaints he was referring to.
Bar owner, Richard Ramey called APN on the morning of September 11 to confirm the information in this article, except the correction noted above that no patrons were arrested.
Ramey said the only charge faced by bar staff and dancers is that the male dancers in their underwear had been dancing without a permit.
"No patron was arrested. I was under the impression the only time you needed a license... is if they're strippers. These dancers were in their underwear," Ramey said.
Ramey said he is upset and concerned about the civil rights of his customers. He wants bar patrons who feel they were mistreated to contact him. "After everything they did to our customers and our staff... they did this like they did in the Stonewall days," Ramey said.
Ramey said the so-called complaint from the community consisted of "a noise complaint... How can they made everybody lie on that nasty floor without probable cause?"
This writer arrived minutes after the raid had begun. A line of cop cars blocked the parking lot so that no one in the parking lot could leave.
According to numerous patrons, many patrons were handcuffed and many, if not all, were searched for drugs and were asked to show identification.
According to one patron, APD handcuffed all Eagle staff members and dancers, patrons in a leather shop, and anyone who was wearing only underwear; Thursday is advertised as underwear night.
APN received the following email on September 11 from a patron who was inside during the raid.
"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," Allan Vives said.
"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.
"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," Vives said.
"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 was.....at this point there were still innocent patrons laying face down on the floor," Vives said.
"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."
From about 11:30pm to 12am, patrons came out of the bar one at a time, apparently, after they had shown ID and gotten searched.
At about 11:50pm, police asked all people standing in the parking lot to leave the property and un-blocked their cars.
At about 12:15am, one staff member complained of a fast heart beat and feeling faint as a result of the stress and shock, and an ambulance was called to the scene. The individual apparently felt better after a few minutes and did not leave in the ambulance.
Check back here for updates on this developing story as well as our blog at www.atlantaprogressiveblog.com
About the author:
Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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