Alex Blaze

Atlanta protests Eagle bar raid: Was it part of a mission to clean up the city?

Filed By Alex Blaze | September 21, 2009 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay panic, police brutality, police violence, The Eagle

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:

Gentle Reminder: Atlanta Eagle Still Open

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.

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

Interesting stuff. I got to speak, and what I said was that the trans community has known the same kind of police brutality for decades and we have several unsolved murders to go along with that. I condemned the Red Dog Squad, while Officer Harris stood close by, and yet, I consider her a friend. However, this is business.

Part of the issue is that Mayor Franklin is a lame duck Mayor, and Chief Pennington knows his days are numbered once we get a new mayor. I have a feeling that the Red Dogs see their chance to be supreme assholes, knowing that the Mayor and Police Chief has lost a lot of their power to stop them. If there other developments in this I can attend, I'll take more video.

Thanks, Alex.

Great videos, Monica.

Alex's analysis is, of course, superb and dead on target.

Thanks for the info, and keep recording. Those are some great videos!

The 1950’s style Atlanta bar raid and the earlier one in Ft. Worth which resulted in terrible head injuries are proof that uniformed thugs are becoming emboldened by the bigotry of the Obama Administration and its hostility to GLBT rights. They, like everyone else, can read the writing on the wall from Congress and the White House.

Obama’s campaign was a precursor of his Whit House approach and everyone but those blinded by partisanship saw it coming.

He appointed Josh Dubois, an ordained pentecostal bigot who opposes same sex marriage to run his religious outreach campaign.

Then Obama appointed another bigot, Tim Kaine of Virginia, who’s pro-war, anti-labor, anti-choice and opposed to stem cell research to run the DNC.
Obama, far from firing Leah Daughtry, an ordained pentecostal bigot, set her up to chair the Democrat National Convention. Daughtry was successfully sued for anti-GLBT hiring and firing practices. She’s an anti-choice creationist who uses DNC money to fund purely religious projects.

Joshua Dubois set up the political/religious rallies for Obama featuring christer entertainers like the Mighty Clouds of Joy, Mary Mary and ‘born again’ ex-gay swine Donnie McClurkin. McClurkin’s a bipartisan piglet. He prayed, or is it preyed, for the success of the Republican National Convention. Obama refuses to denounce rightwing christer bigots like McClurkin, Daughtry, Kaine and Warren because he’s one himself.

After winning the nomination Obama’s team, including Dubois and Daughtry, who chaired the convention, cut all references to GLBT equality and rights from the Democrats platform.

Before the election Dubois set up an appearance with McCain at Rick
Warrens bigotfest held at Saddleback church in the heart of christer bigot country in Orange County, CA. Although he was aware that Prop 8 was a key battle Obama chose to give the bigots all the ammo they needed to shoot us out of the water when he said “gawd’s in the mix”.

After the election he invited bigot Warren to speak before billions on TV at the inaugural and as a sop for saps also invited anglo-catholic bishop Gene Robinson to speak, but made sure few heard him.

After the election Obama appointed Joshua Dubois to head up the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Dubois quickly met with representatives of Concerned (neo-fascist) Women of American and Dobson’s Focus on the Family. The Faith-Based Office, the political love child of authors and then Senators Rick Santorum and Hillary Clinton was successfully used by the Bush Administrations Karl Rove to bribe pulpit pimps with federal largess (your tax dollar at work) in exchange for votes. Now it’s the turn of Obama and Dubois.

Obama’s DoJ unnecessarily defended Clintons DOMA and unnecessarily used vile bigoted language doing it.

Apologists for Obama and the Congressional Democrats claim that their inaction on GLBT agenda is because they’re busy trying to deal with the economic chaos caused when Bill Clinton championed deregulation and gathered near total support from Congressional Democrats, even though the bill was written by their Republican rivals. That’s a lie. Congress has the time to consider and vote on hundreds of bills and resolutions at a time and surely they could take the time to repeal DADT and DOMA and pass tough anti-discrimination and hate crimes/hate speech laws.

It has nothing to do with time and everything to do with math. It includes the cold calculation math of who can deliver the most votes, us or the christer bigots. And it includes a simpler kind of math; adding up the number of homohating bigots in the Democrat Party and subtracting that from their super majorities in Congress.

Bill, I really don't think everything begins and ends with Obama. And this police brutality was happening long before he took office. The Atlanta PD didn't need any encouragement from him to make this happen.

The fact that even Obama called out-of-control police "stupid" and was brow-beaten for it (in the same way that anyone who criticizes the military is told they "hate the troops") shows that this problem is bigger than Obama.

Alex, I don't remember claiming that everything begins and ends with Obama. Or in this case Obama and the Democrats. And you’re right. Obama correctly criticized racist police in Boston. But then, as we all knew he would, he caved and shamefully invited the racist to the WH. He won’t go head to toe with racists any more than he will with homohaters.

No one in Obama’s administration troubled themselves to condemn the violence of uniformed thugs in Ft. Worth or Atlanta. Neither did the Democratic Congressional leadership. Neither did the DoJ, although these events clearly demonstrate local corruption and a real threat to LGBT citizens. Where’s the FBI? Where’s Homeland Security? Where are the national guard tanks that should be protecting us from rogue cops? They’re in Iraq, protecting Haliburton and Chevron-Texaco.

Are those unreasonable questions? Then here’s another one. Why is the protection of our rights ignored while the Obama administration jumps through hoops to ‘create an even playing field’ to insure the profits of looter insurance, HMO and pharmaceutical companies?

What I did say was that Democrats, egged on by their Republican cousins, promote violence against us by tossing us under the bus time and again. They do it so as not to be identified too closely to GLBT rights. And they’ll do it again. You know they will.

If you agree that hate preaching by cult figures and Republican bigots promotes, emboldens and helps produce anti-GLBT harassment, violence and murder why would you deny that the open hostility and backstabbing of politicians that you support wouldn't have the same effects? Do you think that homohating and police violence are genetically innate or that they have some other source?

Gee, Bill. You look for any opportunity, no matter how absolutely remote, to scream and holler about the current administration and all politicians in general.

They recently upgraded the Hubble Telescope to "Hubble 2.0" and even with it's new electronics, it would not be able to find the connection to a police raid at a gay bar in Atlanta and the Democratic Party Leadership. This is a City of Atlanta issue and a City of Atlanta issue ONLY. Period. Please save your political diatribe for a posting where it might actually be pertinent. And, since you don't live in Atlanta, then let those of us who do handle it. There are some pretty damn good people in this area who have a strong grasp of reality.

Gosh Monica, you’re wrong. As usual. Demanding federal protection from rogue police is reasonable. It was for unions, for anti-war protesters and for civil rights groups in earlier battles and it is for us now. Pretending it’s a local question is a dangerously ill-conceived attempt to excuse the inaction of Obama’s DoJ and the Democrats earlier refusal to pass the hate crimes bill.

There’s an intimate connection between police abuse and violence and the cacophony of homohating from cult leaders and right wing political misleaders like Obama and McCain, Reid and Pelosi and the rest. Bigotry is not genetic, not innate, and not ‘human nature’ – it’s social Darwinism to say it is.

Political bigotry and hostility embolden violence and abuse. Democrats, for their own partisan reasons, want to ignore that but it won’t wash. Instead you all want to divert us by calling for censures and investigations of the birther/deather/tenther riff raff dukeing it out with Obama in their usual in-house turf battles between rival hustler gangs. We have no stake in the infighting between Obama and the Republicans but we do have a stake in demanding a federal presence to stop police violence and abuse.

As for “since you don't live in Atlanta, then let those of us who do handle it” is insular and backward in the extreme. Although I wish you would have the decency to apply that same logic to events in California and lose your jealousy of GLBT victories there and in other states.

Finally, I agree that there have to be some “pretty damn good people in this area who have a strong grasp of reality” and I sincerely hope that they hurry up and win some victories so you can lay off our brothers and sisters in California. They deserve what they won just as Georgians will deserve when they win.

Alex, I think you have encapsulated the primary reason for the raid in your conclusion. It seems to me that the Atlanta political system and the police in particular are interested in breaking up the gay community in Atlanta. This process starts with attacks on the most obvious and often least protected gay themed business porn shops, strip clubs, porn theaters and night clubs. It was the tactic that Rudy Giuliani pursued in New York and it was pretty effective. Once the clearest and most sexual gay venues are gone the community that they once supported fragments and disbands. Due to the fact that the space is no longer obviously marked as a Queer space. Several rather detailed academic publications have documented this process.

If your interested I could provide citations.


Give me 5 irate homeowners and a solid neighborhood civic association (which is pretty much everything in Midtown-Virginia Highlands)...and I can shut down anything in central Atlanta.

The tolerantly-intolerant now dominate Intown Atlanta. They support gay marriage, adoption, or are even gay and adopting.
But these folks get worked up if a homeless man is sleeping in a dumpster, or if they find a beer bottle in their front yard on a Sunday morning. It’s not intolerance it’s NIMBY syndrome.

The Rainbow Lounge raid opened our eyes in the DFW. The only way that we could get a response initially was to be loud, very very loud. The TABC fired 3 agents, suspended 2. The FT Worth police have yet to make anything other than a very vague apology and a promise to put in place regulations that would prohibit gay bashing. (None are on the books now)
Monica you are 100% correct. This is a local matter that the citizens must directly confront.

The Rainbow Lounge raid opened our eyes in the DFW. The only way that we could get a response initially was to be loud, very very loud. The TABC fired 3 agents, suspended 2. The FT Worth police have yet to make anything other than a very vague apology and a promise to put in place regulations that would prohibit gay bashing. (None are on the books now)
Monica you are 100% correct. This is a local matter that the citizens must directly confront.

I can't imagine living in Texas and still needing a wake up call.

Monica is wrong. Alex is wrong. These attacks have a federal political dimension as well as local causes and have to be fought on both fronts.

And yet, you just so happen to always be right? Basically, not only does everyone think you're always wrong, but know you're always wrong. Yet, you'll never admit it. I'm not surprised?

And, where again do we need to point the Hubble Telescope?

This sounds so much like NYC under Rudolph Guiliani. He was tha "mastermind" behind giving times square to Disney.

While Times Square was in need of some safety, the truth is that right wingers only see gay people whenever it is convinient for them.

Do you know what happened here, in NYC? now locals can not get any close to TQ because is poluted with tourists, making imposible to walk.

Hope people in Atlanta fight back and prevent the extintion from their city.