The City of Atlanta and the Atlanta
Police Department have been sued by a gay rights group over the
September 10 raid on a gay bar.
Legal is representing 19 individuals who were forcibly searched
and detained at the Atlanta Eagle bar during the raid. In its
filing, the group called the raid “illegal.”
“The illegal activity going on in the
Atlanta Eagle that night was committed by the APD [Atlanta Police
Department],” Greg Nevins, supervising senior staff attorney in
Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta, said in a
“If it is APD procedure for elderly
men and wounded veterans to be thrown to the floor and harassed
simply for being in a bar having a drink after work, then the APD
should change its procedure,” he said.
Police raided the bar located at 306
Ponce De Leon Avenue in the city's Midtown section at about 11PM.
Eight staff members were arrested and charged with providing adult
entertainment without a license. The men were released the next
evening after elected officials intervened on their behalf.
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.”
“The Atlanta Police Department is not
above the law,” Dan Grossman, co-counsel in the case, said. “They
do not get to search and detain people who are not suspected of any
Police Chief Richard Pennington has
said that the raid was prompted by allegations of illegal sex.
Pennington told reporters in September 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. The tips, he said, came in
anonymously. Pennington is listed as a defendant in the case,
Calhoun v. Pennington.
Twenty-one officers, including nine
plain-clothed undercover officers, arrived on the scene with three
jail vans in tow and without a search warrant. Members of the Red
Dog unit, typically used in drug investigations, also participated in
Officers have conceded they found no
illegal drugs or sexual activity during the raid.
The raid came on the heels of another
bar raid in Fort Worth, Texas that has resulted in numerous
investigations and the firing of 3 state employees.
Both raids drew widespread condemnation
from gay rights groups and community leaders outraged by what they
called “police harassment.”