Georgia Equality – an organization that works to advance fairness, safety, and opportunity for Georgia’s LGBT communities – released a statement on Thursday that asks Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington to begin answering questions about a Sept. 10 raid on an the Atlanta Eagle, a local LGBT bar. Patrons present at the bar during that raid allege they were improperly searched, harassed, and assaulted. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in a Sept. 14 article that “during the raid, 62 patrons were ordered facedown on the bar’s floor, some for more than an hour.” The Journal-Constitution went on to note that “nine undercover officers and a dozen uniformed officers participated in the raid.” Eight bar employees were arrested. Garrett McLendon, 43, told the Journal-Constitution that patrons were illegally searched and that after McLendon found himself laying facedown in a pile of glass, he asked officers if he could move and was answered with an expletive from police. At least 10 patrons have filed complaints with the Atlanta Police Department, some of whom allege that anti-gay epithets were used. Police Chief Richard Pennington claimed during a press conference Monday that the raid was a result of an undercover operation investigating claims about sexual activity taking place at the bar. No arrests were made on the basis of sexual activity, however. Chief Pennington also expressed regret that the APD’s LGBT Community liaison, Danni Lynn Harris, had not been notified about the raid and was not present during the incident. Executive Director of Georgia Equality, Jeff Graham is calling on Atlanta's Mayor and Police Chief to justify the raid.
We call on the Mayor to come forward and explain how this raid makes the city any safer, and whether this was really a wise use of the city’s scarce resources during an economic downturn... Civil rights and common decency should not be thrown out the window over… alleged non-violent conduct…Georgia Equality also noted in its statement that the organization is concerned that initial complaints about activities at the Atlanta bar were funneled through the Mayor’s office. Georgia Equality also questioned what specific evidence led to the initiation of the raid and what documentation exists detailing that evidence. Police Chief Pennington assured those concerned on Monday that complaints will be thoroughly investigated and if any officer is found to have acted improperly, “we will take appropriate action.” We'll continue to keep you updated on this story and monitor the media’s coverage of developments around the Atlanta Eagle bar raid. Updates can be found on GLAADblog.org