Gloria Brame, Ph.D.

Atlanta Eagle raided by cops. Why?

Filed By Gloria Brame, Ph.D. | September 16, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media
Tags: Atlanta Eagle, gay bars

Caught this and it surprises me as much as it concerns me. Cops are claiming they saw sex and drugs at the Eagle in Atlanta. Which can only mean one thing: they weren't looking at other Atlanta bars.

Sex and drugs are so much a part of the club scene in every major city that it's hard to believe that this club was a worse offender than your typical rave venue, much less the multitudes of strip clubs and hardcore party-hardy bars in other Atlanta neighborhoods. I can't help wondering if this undercover operation was sanctioned by the APD or whether some rogue vice cops took it upon themselves to infiltrate a known BDSM/leather hang-out to buff up their resumes.

For kinksters, the Atlanta Eagle is much more than the "average gay bar" (whatever that might mean). It is and has been, for almost 20 years, a welcoming oasis for all people of leather -- gay, straight, bi, trans, you name it. The open-arms, pansexual policy was instituted by the gay owners many moons ago, and the Eagle has remained a fixture of the Atlanta BDSM community.

It sponsors the BDSM/leather float at Gay Pride; it hosts fund-raisers for leather competitions; it has (or did, when I used to haunt its halls, in the 1990s) a leather shop where you can pick up some sexy leather duds and even a toy or two.

I don't doubt the cops may have seen some questionable activity. Again, I don't think there is a hot, happening adult-oriented bar or club anywhere in Atlanta where you won't see people fooling around and/or indulging in illegal substances they brought onto the premises.

If the cops had done a similar sting of the chic Buckhead clubs popular with rappers, or the rock clubs where people come high and continue to get high throughout the evening, they might have found people carrying weapons and selling designer drugs. Because, seriously, that's just how it is these days at late-night party clubs throughout the US.

So why did they single out the Eagle? Does anyone have a clue? Was the sting targeted at a perceived weak link in the Atlanta club scene, i.e., it's gay and it's leather, so there won't be a lot of squawking from all the straight Republicans who get their under-the-table blow jobs, coke and Ecstasy at the uptown bars?

And, meanwhile, why did cops have to handcuff and force 62 people to lie on the floor for a search for two hours? That's not a search: that's outright intimidation. To top it off, they didn't even find drugs! Or anything! They claim that some permits were out of order, which employees deny: but even if that was true, it still doesn't justify terrorizing the patrons.

...Atlanta Eagle co-owner Richard Ramey says the raid was reminiscent of 1960s police harassment of gays and lesbians.

"Once they searched everyone, found no weapons or drugs, they said 'Well, I guess we'll have to go to the IDs next.' So they brought a laptop to see if they had any warrants or unpaid traffic tickets. They were fishing, they were looking."

I sorely hope the cops get hit with a big bad law suit and that this attempt to intimidate leather people and shut us down will not be allowed to vanish quietly into the news.

Amid a community uproar over the raid of a Midtown gay bar, Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington said Monday that undercover vice officers had been to the club on two prior occasions and observed illegal activity there.

...The raid resulted in 62 patrons being forced to lie on the floor, have their pockets searched and their IDs checked before they were allowed to leave. For up to two hours, some customers lay face down in grime and spilled beer waiting their turns. On Monday, one by one, patrons and employees visited the Atlanta Police Office of Professional Standards complaining about the treatment. Eight employees were arrested for not having proper permits. They pleaded not guilty Monday morning. No one was arrested for drugs or lewd dancing.

There has already been a rally against the APD's raid. Community activists will also be airing their grievances to the Atlanta City Council. I hope they prevail, and quickly put a firm stop to the APD's attempts to intimidate and harass the local gay and leather communities.

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I wonder about why they would raid The Eagle too. I lived in Atlanta for 30 years and always saw it as a slightly weird fixture of the city that was part of our being a City Too Busy to Hate. But boy drag is very sexy. (That is what an Atlanta transwoman used to call what leathermen wore, boy drag.) I wonder if there have been some new conservatives infiltrating the upper ranks of the police department. They say the morale has been low and that would do it. Police and fire have been accepting of gay officers for years and the department as a liaison to the gay community as well.

This is an election year in Atlanta and Georgia. An openly pro-gay mayor is completing her second and final term and the spot is highly contested. 8 years ago she gained extra support when her opponent implied that Shirley Franklin was gay and that that was a reason NOT to vote for her. Homophobia can kill one's political career in Atlanta.

But we have to consider that the religious right is a bigger threat in the metro area than it used to be and when you get out of the metro area you are in the Deep South (although not as bad as Missisippi, Louisiana and Alabama). One of the big nasties of the religious right moved its headquarters into the area a few years back, "Bishop" Eddie Long is a homophobe (His mega church, New Birth Missionary Baptist--held an anti same sex marriage march) and it is also the home of Charles Stanley (First Baptist Atlanta--AIDS is God's curse on homosexuality, Advocate 1985).

The situation needs to be monitored carefully. If there is any unfair busting there WILL be trouble.

They need to remember that Atlanta has a huge gay community in residence, good interstates to get the country girls from south Georgia and Alabama, and Atlanta LOVES a good demonstration! After all it is the hometown of Martin Luther King! It also has a very accessible airport (busiest in the world) that has a MARTA station inside of it so anyone from anywhere in America with enough money for a plane ticket can get there and use public transportation to said demonstration for an additional $2.00. Even the Greyhound station is right there on a MARTA train.

APD had best behave and stick to catching gangs and drug dealers and people who throw away their babies. The gay bars have always been careful about illegal activities because they have a strong, proud community to serve and don't want to get a bad reputation. They are real aware that they are in Georgia.