Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington
said Monday that last week's raid on a gay leather bar was prompted
by allegations of illegal sex, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Police raided The Atlanta Eagle bar at
306 Ponce De Leon Avenue in the city's Midtown section on Thursday at
about 11PM. Eight staff members were arrested and charged with
providing adult entertainment without a license. The men were
released on Friday evening after elected officials intervened on
According to patrons present during the
raid, no one was allowed to leave the building until after police had
leisurely checked the IDs of 62 patrons forced to lay prone on the
floor. Police collected IDs and personal belongings. Challengers
were told “Don't speak until spoken to” or “Shut up.”
Pennington told reporters that vice
officers had observed men having sex in the bar while other patrons
watched on multiple occasions. Initial complaints filed in May also
alleged drugs were being sold in the bar, he said.
Earlier on Monday, at least 10 of the
bar's patrons and employees filed formal complaints against the
department. Most took issue with the force used during the raid.
Several eye-witnesses have called the raid police “harassment.”
“I believe [the bar] was raided
because it was a gay bar,” co-owner Robert Kelley, who was among
the arrested, told local CBS affiliate WGCL.
“The only thing they'd tell us is we
need to sit and shut the [expletive] up, and if we asked any
questions, they'd bash us with a bar stool,” he added.
Hundreds gathered Sunday outside The
Atlanta Eagle to protest the department's actions. Gay activists
have called for a complete investigation.
Twenty-one officers, including nine
plain-clothed undercover officers, arrived on the scene with three
jail vans in tow and without a search warrant, Pennington confirmed.
Members of the Red Dog unit, typically used in drug investigations,
also participated in the raid.
Officers concede they found no illegal
“What happened to the customers was
an assault,” Alan Begner, a lawyer representing The Atlanta Eagle,
told the paper. “They were not free to go. There was no suspicion
any of them had committed a crime.”