There was a protest this weekend over the bar raid in Atlanta. Monica Helms has lots of videos (in good quality), so hop on over to her site if you couldn't be there.
The police also released the police reports from the night of the raid, filed the next day:
As for what happened Sept. 10, an incident report states two undercover officers were assigned to watch the back room where sex acts had allegedly taken place during the previous undercover visits.
"Due to the lighting of the room I was unable to see any sex acts happening. While standing in the back room a patron from the bar began to engage me in conversation. When he walked away he grabbed me on the groin and said he would see me later," an officer wrote about the Sept. 10 raid in a report dated Sept. 11.
So they start with the gay panic defense. I wonder, though, how much truth there is to a story about what happened before a bar raid that turned up nothing but permit violations that was recounted the next day. The police ran everyone's ID's and searched them for drugs, obviously desperate to find some sort of crime with which to justify the raid, so making up a couple of stories for the report the next day is definitely something I wouldn't put past them. I know men who've been arrested for cruising can testify to police officers' ability to get artistic with the truth in their reports.
The police report continues:
Another report of what happened Sept. 10 states that an undercover officer "observed two men in what appeared to be a sexual act. Both of the males had their pants lowered and one gentleman was moving his body back and forth toward the other gentleman. I could not get a good visual due to the extreme low light in the room. I also observed a black male in his underwear dancing on the main bar of the establishment."
That's the out-in-the-open sex that led to the bar raid. These undercover investigations happened because of even weaker complaints from a private citizen who seems just to have had something against the bar owner.
And then 62 people were handcuffed, detained, searched, robbed of their cell phones, and had criminal checks run on them without even a suspicion of wrong-doing for any individual.
The police's LGBT liaison showed up at the protest this weekend to tell people to calm down and how awesome the Red Dog unit is (the same group of police officers that shot a 92-year-old black woman three years ago and then planted drugs in her apartment while she bled to death, the same police officers that have been cited again and again as the most out-of-control part of the Atlanta PD). She knows who signs her paycheck, and it isn't the LGBT people of Atlanta:
The answer to police brutality is... more police!
What gets me about several of the other videos on Monica's site is how many of the speakers, the ones who aren't being paid cash by the Atlanta Police Department, talk about how much they love the police. A few say that there are so many real crimes out there, so why did the police raid the Eagle? This raid is being portrayed as the modern cousin of Stonewall and pre-Stonewall bar raids, when, if anything, it's the most recent incarnation of police brutality and bar raiding in Atlanta, several of which occurred just this year without a protest (from looking at photos on the six raided bars' websites, it appears that four cater to African American clientele, and five were strip clubs).
First they came for....
And no wonder police think they can get away with anything. The police handcuff, detain, illegally search, confiscate cell phones of, and run criminal checks on 62 people accused of nothing, in a brutal and disrespectful fashion, and these people hold a protest of their mistreatment. At this protest, one of the speakers has the audacity to say:
There aren't enough cops in the street as it is.
Perhaps there aren't enough police officers in Atlanta, but asking for more without demanding a better system of police accountability (not just accountability for this one incident) seems suicidal. You add more police officers without taking care of the fact that they think they can do pretty much whatever, these sorts of incidents are only going to happen more often.
And asking for more cops when the cops are breaking the law does nothing but encourage further violence. People only ask for more of something when that something is doing good, and increasing the police department's budget and expanding their operations without first seeking justice for this incident and accountability to prevent future incidents can only be read as an endorsement of APD's actions.
The problem with the police isn't whether individual police officers are good or bad, or nice or mean, it's always about the lack of accountability for their actions and the fact that people are willing to let them off the hook from whatever they do because they're afraid of all the other bad people out there who'll come to rob and brutalize them if the police aren't around. This makes politicians run on "tough on crime" platforms where they worship the police in the same way neocons put yellow "Support the Troops" stickers on their SUV's - if you complain about the police, then you're just outside the realm of polite discourse. If you're a politician and you try to limit police officers' actions, then you might as well hang up your coat and resign, because even the people protesting police brutality think that there aren't enough police anyway.
And that constriction on polite discourse is exactly what keeps us from developing the tools needed to reduce police violence. One would think that the protesters of police brutality would want to convince people that the police themselves are a problem when they're allowed to act lawlessly instead of just saying: "Hey, we love you, but could you just act violently and lawlessly with those people over there?
The Eagle has retained an attorney who's speaking out against this, and it seems like they might be willing to go forward with a suit. I hope they do. While they seem to be acting in isolation from other people in the city of Atlanta who have long been the targets of police brutality, anything they do to increase the accountability of police officers is a good thing. Whether they also pressure politicians to create better systems of accountability for police actions (they're conducting an internal investigation! I'm so sure that police officers investigating other police officers will make them all see the error of their ways) will have to be seen.
The larger, anti-sex agenda
The police's real goal, which was most likely to shut the bar down as people stop going because they don't want to be treated that way by the police, may be realized. An Atlanta GLBT blog used this telling post title:
And the bar's attorney told the Southern Voice that another gay bar was raided and eventually shut down the same way:
"I don't understand why, if you see a crime, you don't make an arrest when it is happening," Begner said. "This is what happened to the Metro [another gay bar]."
In the Metro case, Police alleged they made drug arrests at the bar several years ago but never told the owners. Begner said what happened to the Metro was a "trial by ambush" that eventually forced its closure -- and what is happening to the Atlanta Eagle appears to be a similar police action.
I looked up the Metro in Atlanta to see what information I could find about its closing, and here's part of an article from Creative Loafing, the city's alt paper, from 2002:
As reported elsewhere in the media, the city of Atlanta's License Review Board, a group of citizen appointees, recently voted to revoke the club's license to sell alcohol. Now, Mayor Shirley Franklin will have to decide whether to enforce the board's recommendation. Backstreet, a 24-hour club also in Midtown, has been ordered to appear before the board to show cause why its license shouldn't be revoked too.
In both cases, the sale of illegal drugs to undercover police is cited for the recommendations. Backstreet is already operating on borrowed time because of a new ordinance that forbids private clubs from existing for profit and mainly to sell alcohol. The law is not being enforced for now because of a lawsuit challenging it.[...]
The Metro's woes seem to be part of a general trend toward turning Atlanta into a nice clean town again. Those of us who were around in the '70s remember when Fulton County Solicitor Hinson McAuliffe led a campaign to do the same thing. Adult businesses, like video stores, were closed right and left. Gay men were arrested constantly in public cruising areas like Piedmont Park. Ordinances were adopted to regulate strip clubs. I remember inane diatribes by politicians about the need for strippers to cover their nipples.
All of that relaxed completely in the '90s and even the state blue laws were widely ignored, until now. Of course, nobody talks with the same explicitly puritanical edge that they did during the '70s. Now the popular demonization of drugs is used to advocate the same agenda of purging the nightlife of sin.
Obviously, the Metro isn't responsible for the fact that undercover cops managed, in two years, to make a dozen drug purchases (none of which have been prosecuted). Although the law does hold bar owners responsible for enforcing the laws, it is hard to imagine a club in Atlanta where one can't buy any number of (stupidly) illegal substances. The reporting about the effort to shut down "raves" around the country has repeatedly made the point that no matter how diligent club owners are, they can't keep drugs off the premises. Ten tabs of ecstasy are easily hidden in a shoe.
In 2005, the Southern Voice published an article on Atlanta's gay nightlife. The former owner of the Metro seemed to be pretty bitter about how his bar was attacked by the police and moral scolds:
In the gayborhood of Midtown, an area that most gay bars used to call home, the times, they are a'changin', according to some bar owners.
Don Hunnewell, who owned the recently closed Metro Video Bar on Peachtree Street, said new development coupled with "hateful Atlanta police officers" led to the demise of his club. The Metro shut its doors Oct. 4, ending a years-long battle with city officials over allegations of drug sales on its premises.
"Biased and hateful Atlanta police officers intentionally targeted and destroyed my business while my city council member and mayor let it happen for fear of upsetting the 'not in my back yard' voters and developers during an election year," Hunnewell said.
Since the bar's closure, Hunnewell has worked to draw crowds to "Sundays in Exile" at Atlanta Live on Clairmont Road in DeKalb County, outside of the reach of city officials.
"Is it a trend? Yes, and it will continue as long as we do not pay attention and participate in the political process," Hunnewell said.
It seems like there could organized action to try to get sex clubs shut down in the Atlanta. If that's the case, asking for more police officers isn't going to solve the problem.