From time to time we are compelled to stand up for what is right and condemn what is wrong. Swirl is a committed ally of the LGBT community. Therefore we felt compelled to voice our outrage about the recent Atlanta Police Department raid of the Atlanta Eagle, a long-standing LGBT establishment in the Atlanta community.
As directors of the Atlanta and Philadelphia chapters of Swirl Inc, a national multi-racial organization focused on challenging notions of race through community building, education and action, we are outraged by the Atlanta Police Department’s raid of the Atlanta Eagle on September 10, 2009. We are troubled by the lack of transparency from City Government and Law Enforcement, as there has been little clarity about the charges filed against the owners of the Eagle or those who were arrested.
While Atlanta’s neighborhood communities are overcome with fear of armed robberies, home burglaries, carjackings (all of which have also befallen at least 3 elected officials and political candidates) and lack of sufficient neighborhood police patrols, Vice was able to dedicate resources to organizing a raid on The Atlanta Eagle, one of Atlanta’s longest standing LGBT establishments. We question the priorities and motivation behind the raid of the Eagle.
Officer Danni Lynn Harris, The Atlanta Police Department’s Liaison to the LGBT community, has received a significant number of complaints from who suffered verbal abuse with “anti-gay overtones” as well as several racially tinged remarks. Due to the overwhelming response and complaints resulting from the raid, Officer Harris believes that the vice squad’s behavior warrants an internal investigation, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. However, she also stated that this may be the kind of situation that blows up before all facts are known. We are incredibly concerned about the breakdown in communication between the Vice and Officer Harris. As the LGBT community’s liaison, it is troubling that she appears to be so unaware of the actions that were planned to take place at The Eagle. We, along with others, add our voices to the chorus urging the Atlanta Police Department to conduct a timely and thorough investigation, as well as ensure that the complaints prompted by this raid are adequately vetted to rule out malice or homophobic motivations before moving forward.
Attorney Allen Begner, who has stepped forward to represent The Eagle, has expressed that patrons’ rights were likely further violated when the Atlanta Police Department searched patrons multiple times. A head count found that there were 70 people present at The Eagle, 8 of which were staff members. Patrons were made to lay face down on the floor for over an hour while APD searched each person individually, yet officers did not recover any weapons or drugs. On anyone! When this search turned up nothing, APD insisted on running every individual’s IDs, all the while using disrespectful language and acting with pure intimidation, instilling of fear, and reckless procedure. This behavior, including APD’s alleged use of derogatory language in regards to multiple minority communities including LGBT and racial minorities, is unacceptable and disturbing.
Members of the LGBT community continue to live in fear of violence and persecution in our city and countless other cities throughout this nation. We are once again forced to highlight the injustices perpetrated against a community by the same law enforcement personnel who are sworn to protect one and all. Our energies need to be combined to ensure that all communities receive adequate protection of the law, not from it. This incident underscores the need for robust hate crimes legislation in Georgia and for legislators to take more deliberate steps to guaranty equal protection under the law for the LGBT community. Guaranteeing civil rights protections for only some of us undermines and erodes the foundation of civil rights for us all, a principle that guides Swirl’s very mission.
Finally, we applaud the growing list of Atlanta politicians calling for a thorough and transparent investigation including City Council members/candidates and Mayoral candidates Alex Wan, Kyle Keyser, Lisa Borders, Kasim Reed, Mary Norwood, Kwanza Hall and many more. We would especially like to commend Shelitha Robertson and Miguel Gallegos, candidates running for City Council, for their swift actions to ensure the immediate release of the 6 Eagle staff members who remained in custody. We hope to continue to see their steadfast dedication to standing up against injustice in all communities.
It is imperative that we impress upon Atlanta law enforcement and elected officials that their actions are unacceptable. Please join us in raising our voices against prejudice and injustice:
- Call Richard J. Pennington, Chief of Police at 404.546.6839
- Call Officer Dani Lynn Harris, LGBT Liaison for the Atlanta PD at 404.695.7408. Her mission is to “improve the relationship between the GLBT community and the Atlanta Police Department.”
- Call Shirley Franklin, Mayor of Atlanta at 404.330.6100
- Donate to Georgia Equality, the political and advocacy voice of Georgia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens and their allies. No donation is too small!