Alex Blaze

"I thought this was a sex club"

Filed By Alex Blaze | September 16, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Atlanta, Atlanta police, bar raid, gay bars, LGBT, police, police brutality, The Eagle

The Atlanta Police Department released complaints filed by Eagle bar patrons regarding the bar raid last week that turned up several arrests for permit violations. Is this how permit laws are supposed to be enforced?

• One man said officers grabbed patrons who didn't immediately lie down by the neck and forced them to the ground. The man said he was kicked in the ribs while lying down. "Then I heard laughing and giggling and saying this is more fun than raiding niggers with crack. They also told us to shut the fuck up unless we were spoken too [sic]." The man said he heard one person told that if he spoke again he would be hit by a chair. He also reported that one officer "said to everyone in general that all you all do is flash your asses and show your cocks."

• An Eagle employee said he did not know what he was charged with until he got to jail. "A lot of officers were laughing and high-fiving each other, and I heard one officer say I thought this was a sex club."

• Another patron described listening to officers chat about their cell phone plans as he lay on the ground. "I was forced down by physical force. They grabbed my neck and pushed me down. They put their boot on my back and told me to stay down. ... If anyone asked anything they were told to 'shut the fuck up.'"

• Another patron said he saw officers forcing people to the ground by officers pushing their shoulders or the backs of their heads. He said he asked to move because there was broken glass on the floor where he was lying, and he was told to "shut the fuck up." The customer recounted hearing anti-gay slurs: "I heard several slurs such as 'I hate homosexuals.' I also heard 'I don't like fags.' One officer asked me if I was married and had any children, and he told me I should be ashamed for being there." The customer recounted having his diabetes medication, which was in an unmarked container, taken and not returned. He recounted hearing another customer told that if he didn't be quiet, an officer would hit him over the head with one of the barstools. "There were several officers standing over me that started joking about this is a lot of fun, we ought to come back and do this every week." The customer said he heard an officer say pictures of men on the walls made him sick, and make comments about people's appearance, including calling him "big boy." He also said officers were watching the football game on TV during the raid.

• A customer said he at first thought the bar was being robbed because the first police officer to yell "get the fuck on the floor" was dressed in civilian clothes and did not display a badge.

• An employee who was arrested said that after the customers were allowed to leave, "the officers started high fiving and jumping up in the air bumping into each other like they were at a football game."

• An employee who lives in an apartment over the Eagle, who said he was not working that night, said someone started pounding on his door. He opened the door to two cops who asked if anyone was having sex there. They asked why there was a bed and he said it was because he lives there. He was made to come downstairs and was arrested with the other employees. He recalled hearing comments like "You people are despicable."

The Southern Voice also got copies of the original complaints that led to the raid. They're laughable.

The two tips seem to come from someone familiar with the Atlanta Eagle. According to the July 1 anonymous Crime Stoppers tip sent via the web, the complainant said the club was closing July 5 at 3 a.m. and would reopen at 3:15 a.m. for an after hours party to benefit the Southern Bears.

"They have hired nude dancers to dance on the bars; sex will be permitted as at most circuit parties, drugs will be sold freely. They plan on using the back entrance for admission that is located off the rear patio. They will be running a shuttle bus to and from the host hotel which is the Courtyard Marriott Northlake on Lavista Road in Tucker, GA," the tipster states. Included in the tip is co-owner Robby Kelley's alleged profile on Bear411.com.

The other tip, sent May 19 via email to Mayor Shirley Franklin as well as to TV news tip hotlines for WSB-TV, Fox Atlanta news and 11 Alive news, states:

"Mayor Franklin: The Atlanta Eagle, a bar that is situated next to one of your old campaign offices, continues to have sex parties on Thursday nights that spills out into the neighborhood. Witnesses (including myself) in the neighborhood have seen men in various stages of undress performing sexual acts on each other including oral and anal sex. Mayor Franklin, your assistance in this matter is desperately needed as people in this neighborhood are concerned about the neighborhood being turned into a brothel," the complainant stated.

"Bags of what appears to be drug residue are found strewn around a one block radius of the bar and drunk bar patrons scream and create disturbances. The neighbors that I have spoken to are scared to report anything as the bar owner has been known to retaliate against neighbors by pointing speakers with sounds of men having sex and blasting it to the residential building next to the bar ... the neighborhood is extremely fed up with this situation."

Again, if there were bags of drug residue thrown out around the bar, why weren't the police investigating those? And why were there only two complaints if "the neighborhood" is frustrated, and only one of those two complaints was related to things the bar had already done instead of things someone thought would happen?

There's going to be further investigation into the police's actions here, although I wouldn't be too optimistic that the internal investigation will end with any sort of punishment for the officers involved unless public pressure is kept up.

Which is why there's a citizens' review board:

Fauver did point out there is a Citizens Review Board for the APD, created by the City Council as a resource where citizens can also make complaints of alleged police misconduct.

The CRB came about after the 2006 shooting death of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston. Undercover APD officers stormed her house and opened fire, saying later they were there as part of a drug bust. However, an investigation later found the police were lying and three of the officers involved are now serving time in federal prison.


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Is it illegal to have a private party where sex takes place now? Except for the drugs (most kink venues insist everyone plays sober), that first complaint sounds not too far from some parties I've been to. Was it only the suggestion of drugs that made that illegal?

Angela Brightfeather | September 16, 2009 3:18 PM

If you travel in the UK or France and especially in major cities like Paris or London, there are street cameras everywhere (I think they are labeled CCTV). In many bars and restaurants there are also cameras, like the ones in banks that are set up to record. These individual systems probably cost about 3 to 4 thousand dollars to set up.

I also note that cops in both of those countries and cities, do not find a need to carry firearms and are very rarely accused of beating people up because they know there are cameras that will record their actions.

As for the club owners, I personally do not doubt a lot of the allegations made by the neighbors and know as well as everyone else, that when you go to a club with music and drinking, yes, your going to find drugs there also, being brought in by patrons who need a little boost or stimulation to dance all night. You can spot them on the floor dancing around their large bottles of water.

That's life in the clubs folks. If Jimmy Carter can admit to some elephants in the room like racism, we should admit to others, like drug use in most dance clubs. The difference here is that the same things happen in straight clubs also and the cops don't raid them and manhandle the patrons or throw them on the floor and call them names. Instead, they talk to the owner and they go in the back room and the cops come out with a fatter wallet. Problem solved.

One thing that I have not heard so far is how or if they have treated or arrested any Trans people. If they are abusing GLB people, I can only imagine what they might be doing to Trans people or Drag Queens that they catch in a club. I'm waiting for the shoe to drop on that one.

No trans people in this raid, Angela. I know that for fact.

The whole thing is stupid squared.

I do think something bad went down, but I'm suspicious of each and every claim. Why would an officer say the "n-s with crack" thing when most of the cops involved were Black?

Angela Brightfeathr | September 17, 2009 2:06 PM

Thanks for noting that Monica.

Well, all this is heading in the same direction folks.

After Texas, then Atlanta, the cops are going to hit a club on a busy night with a full house and they are going to get their butts kicked, then retaliate with tear gas an stun guns and some GLBT people are going to be seriously hurt or killed.

We may be on the brink of Stonewall South unless the club owners, the cops, the neighbors and the clientele can come up solution sin every case and I have little faith in that happening.

I look at this as just another extension of the teabaggers and birthers getting back at President Obama. We can't directly abuse people of color because one of them is the boss. So lets go after the people who voted him in.

I also note the spontaneity of these raids on clubs. In both the Texas and the Atlanta cases, after the raids it was noted that anyone above a police lieutenant didn't know what was going on until after the fact. It sure sounds like renegade cop action to me.