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Monday, December 28, 2009

2010: Odyssey Two

To borrow a name from the late Arthur Clarke, 2010 is indeed a new odyssey for the GLBT community — not just in Atlanta, but across the southeastern United States. For the first time since the days of the 2000 March on Washington, we have a chance to push towards equal rights. The ill-fated years under GWB dealt great damage to our then-positive, organized, and determined efforts to promote equality. Now, more than ever, we must stand up in a unified voice and demand our civil rights.

We start the year with an Atlanta city government freshly awoken to the needs of the GLBT community, yet without our long-loved Voice to document the possible dawning of a new understanding in the public eye. We await the outcome of a civil case supported by Lambda Legal Defense Fund to bring justice to those abused by police at Atlanta Eagle, asserting rights guaranteed by Georgia and Federal law, as well as the United States Constitution. (Note: GLBTATL has converted Lambda Legal's case complaint to plaintext via OCR; see it here.)

As for GLBTATL? We started 2009 with four full-time members and as many as ten part-time enthusiastic supporters. Through the year, we lost some of our most promising support, and now are only two people. That probably means that we are going into hibernation until our resources are needed once again. We don't have any current plans for political activity, but to be clear, this does not mean that we are disappearing completely.

"GLBTATL" was always meant to be a name under which Atlanta's gay community could come together, to show that we had a focus, a drive towards common goals. The two of us who still identify as part of it have never sought personal media recognition, because gathering under a banner of common causes, rather than name-dropping individuals, has always been the point of GLBTATL.*

(* Compare that attitude to one who created a self-promotional "fan page", after defacing the greatly successful group effort that brought hundreds together in a common cause, and accusing me personally of "boosting ego". That last claim is strange, to be sure; I don't have a self-created fan page, nor any notable mentions in media. My partner has only one mention from nine years ago, in the AP article about the 2000 March linked at top.)

We still have great hope for Atlanta's GLBT community, however disorganized it may be as the new year dawns. As a group name, GLBTATL continues to exist, even if we're just waiting in the wings. Our new year's resolution is to remember the gay redefinition of the word family: you are all our family, and family members help each other. Our contact information still works, and we are available if you need us. Thank you all for your support, and call on us anytime if we can return the favor.

Have a safe New Year's Eve, and may the odyssey of 2010 prove to reignite the spirit of togetherness and equality.

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.

— Oscar Wilde

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Shame On You, Mr. Reed

While going to and from the grocery store today, I saw something that is blatantly unethical and dirty by the Kasim Reed campaign. The low photo resolution is from my phone's older camera; however, the implication should be obvious. (My apologies for a finger being partly in one of the shots.)





Mr. Reed's campaign is so desperate that they have resorted to blocking the view of Mary Norwood's campaign signs by placing their own signs directly in front. This is despicable behavior from someone running for public office. I have not seen this tactic in a great many years, even through the two hotly contested W. campaigns for President. I'm utterly disgusted.

For the instances documented here in photos, all located in the strip of I-20 westbound between Bill Kennedy Way and Capitol Avenue, I was kind enough to move the signs so as to be positioned side-by-side. However, should I see any instances of this again prior to the election on Tuesday, I shall be photographing them for posting online, and pulling the offending signs entirely.

Shame on you, Mr. Reed. Please get your campaign workers out to fix these horrible, disgraceful, and despicable acts by your campaign or its supporters.

To our blog's readers, this incident further cements our endorsement for, and belief in, Mary Norwood for Atlanta Mayor. Make sure you come out to vote on December 1, and don't forget to read the joint letter from Atlanta LGBT citizens in support of Mary Norwood.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lambda Legal Sues Atlanta PD; Police Chief Resigns


In what is certainly no coincidence, Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington and Assistant Chief Alan Dreher have resigned only weeks before the current administration was to leave office.

This news comes in less than a day after Lambda Legal announced their intent to file a federal lawsuit against the City of Atlanta, officially titled Calhoun v. Pennington. The lawsuit alleges violations of the United States Constitution, as well as the Georgia Constitution and Official Code of Georgia (OCGA).

The lawsuit's full text is not immediately available, but likely cites at least the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the patrons of Atlanta Eagle were subject to searches and background checks without warrants issued in their names, and allegedly without probable cause to institute those searches and background checks.

Co-counsel Dan Grossman explained, in plain terms, the alleged violations committed by the Atlanta Police Department:

Imagine if police walk into a Wal-Mart and see someone shoplifting, and because they see what they think is a crime taking place at Wal-Mart, they take everyone at Wal-Mart, throw them on the floor, spread their legs, put their hands in their pockets, take their IDs, and put their names in a computer simply because they're at a place where someone else might or might not be doing something wrong.

This lawsuit does not yet have its own page on Lambda Legal's docket Web page, but should be listed there soon. (The likely location will be this link.)

Why GLBT Voters Should Be Very Careful in Their Choice for Mayor of Atlanta

This post shares the title of a joint letter released by concerned Atlantans today who support Mary Norwood for Atlanta Mayor. GLBTATL endorsed Mary Norwood last week.

The main text of the letter is below; view the original PDF version to see the list of all the community members who signed on.



To: All GLBT Voters in the City of Atlanta
Date: November 24, 2009

We are your friends, co-workers, and neighbors in the City of Atlanta, and we ask you to vote for Mary Norwood to be Atlanta’s next Mayor on December 1.

Please imagine the following actual encounter: Doug Brooks and Rusty Wolf, a couple together for 11 years who were married in 2005 in Massachusetts, took the opportunity to ask Kasim Reed about his position on marriage equality. On November 8, Doug, Rusty and their two young children were in Morningside’s Sidney Marcus Park. With their children in arms, Doug and Rusty politely asked Senator Reed why he did not believe their children were entitled to the benefits of having two married parents. Kasim Reed looked this family in the eye and said that his religious views did not allow him to recognize a civil marriage. This was a tough conversation to have in our own neighborhood with someone who might lead our City and its large gay and lesbian population.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Why we believe in Mary Norwood, in one word: Commitment.

I'm willing to say something that elected officials rarely say: Yes, I'm human, and I am capable of making a mistake.

In commentary quoted (albeit with an incorrect first name) by WABE-FM, I inferred that Mary Norwood was the only current Mayoral candidate in the Pride Parade. There was a similar but more direct claim in AJC, which has since been removed from their online article. Kasim Reed's campaign staff has sent a correction, as shown in these photos, along with the following statement:

I understand there are differences between our two camps, but when speaking to others including media please try and keep statements factually accurate.

Please let me clarify that GLBTATL is not in anyone's camp. We are not part of, or offering assistance to, any current campaign. That said:

This correction regarding Pride does not change our endorsement of Mary Norwood for Atlanta Mayor. We believe that both Mary Norwood and Kasim Reed are high-quality candidates in general, and both have worked with the GLBTQ+ community in differing capacities. Our endorsement decision was based on two main factors, which are superficial at first glance but are deep in long-term impact:

  • Kasim Reed co-sponsored the text in 2006 SB 79 that expressly created Christan Bible study courses in public schools with Georgia state funds. We feel that it is inappropriate to funnel state monies into public schools for the purposes of studying any one religion, especially if other belief systems are not permitted equal funding and treatment.

  • While municipal government does not (generally) have the power to get involved in issues such as marriage equality, this issue is currently a hot political topic. The marriage question gives valuable insight into long-term perspectives of the candidates, and their depths of commitment to the GLBTQ+ community.

Because of 2006 SB 79, and Mr. Reed's stated "personal faith" preventing him making a short and simple stand for marriage equality, we felt uncomfortable with Mr. Reed's long-term future prospects for our community.

Mr. Reed's preferred civil union definition doesn't cut it: "Separate but equal" died in 1964, and should stay dead. Religion-based bans on interracial marriage were overturned in 1967. Too often, religion has been cited as a reason to dodge important civil rights questions. These are the same questions which, as observed by Iowa's Supreme Court, have no business being based on religion.

Amir Farokhi, also one of our endorsees, said it very well:

I support full equality for marriage. It's a yes-or-no issue. Any definition that is fuzzy or in-between is just a matter of political convenience.

We believe that Mary Norwood's absolute written support of marriage equality, without reservation, is a long-term view that better aligns with GLBTATL's goals. It also demonstrates a deep commitment to our community that transcends just the office of Atlanta Mayor, and for that reason, she has our full support.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Vote Dec. 1: Mary Norwood for Atlanta Mayor


With this year's municipal elections coming down to real issues affecting real Atlantans, GLBTATL.org endorses our community friend, Mary Norwood, for Atlanta Mayor. Though our community groups have had mixed feelings on the Atlanta mayoral race, we believe that Mary Norwood has the drive and ability to effect meaningful change at City Hall.

Mary Norwood has been an outspoken advocate of equality for all citizens, in every part of life. She has pledged not only to push for City policies and ordinances that support equal rights at the City level, but also to use the Mayor's office wisely as a voice for our community to State and Federal legislators.

The campaign has provided GLBTATL a digital copy of her detailed platform for the GLBTQ+ community (viewable at glbtatl.org/norwood-position). The position paper includes an excerpt from her interview about her daughter's coming-out in the final issue of Southern Voice, and a decisively stated stance on marriage:

Marriages make our community stronger. Gays and lesbians are our neighbors, friends and families, our police officers and our firefighters, and in these tough times all families need the added peace of mind that marriage—and only marriage—can bring.

Norwood's opponent, on the other hand, has used exclusionary personal opinion—rather than informed judgment—to defend his absolute opposition to marriage equality. His divisive personal opinions have resulted in other biased work in the Georgia legislature, such as advocating the forced inclusion of one religion's studies in Georgia public schools' curricula.

GLBTATL has always backed the position that inclusion is the better principle. Our joint effort with the Atlanta Black LGBT Coalition, to protest Rick Warren's keynote address at The King Center, brought together a group of racially, culturally, and spiritually diverse people and community groups to show that Atlantans of all kinds want inclusiveness in our institutions. We cannot, in good conscience, endorse a candidate who unwaveringly stands by outdated and inappropriate exclusionary principles in government.

Municipal elections are often regarded as mundane or incidental. This year, the GLBTQ+ community has an opportunity to put a member of our extended family, not just an ally-in-name-only, in the Atlanta Mayor's office. GLBTATL therefore believes that Mary Norwood is the best candidate for Atlanta Mayor in the December 1 runoff elections.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Vote Dec. 1: Amir Farokhi for Atlanta City Council, Post 2 At-Large


In this year's runoff election that stands to define the concept of change, GLBTATL.org is proud to endorse Amir Farokhi for the position of Atlanta City Council, Post 2 At-Large.

After the unethical, and possibly illegal, police raid on Atlanta Eagle on September 10, GLBTATL organized a public rally to give a a voice to the victims of the raid. Local candidates for public office were invited to show their support for the community. For City Council Post 2 At-Large, only Amir Farokhi presented his case to the assembled crowd of hundreds:

We are all here to determine the future of our city. Atlanta is what we make of it, and whether this is a city that fulfills its potential to become a truly great city, a city that has space for everyone, in which there are no second-class residents, in which everyone is respected by residents and by the city, we have work to do.... I hope to stand shoulder by shoulder with you, today, tomorrow, and if elected, make sure this a city that continues to be a beacon of light... for the LGBT community in the southeast and around the country.

Amir Farokhi has already spelled out his platform for equality to include better promotion and utilization of Atlanta's domestic partner registry—which has existed since 1997, yet appears nowhere on the City's web site. Farokhi takes further bold steps by pledging to seek out contractors who provide domestic-partner benefits, and promote the hiring of LGBTQ+ Atlantans to City offices.

In stark contrast, Farokhi's opponent does not even address the existence of Atlanta's gay community on his campaign website. With nearly one-eighth of our city population identifying as lesbian, gay, or transgender, Atlanta's LGBTQ+ community cannot afford to elect officials who do not put a priority on our community's needs.

GLBTATL asked Farokhi about extending his equality platform beyond Atlanta, particularly whether he would support marriage equality, to which he said: "I support full equality for marriage. It's a yes-or-no issue. Any definition that is fuzzy or in-between is just a matter of political convenience."

In September, our community was attacked by our own sworn protectors. Just this week, our iconic community publication of record, Southern Voice, was shut down. Now, more than ever before, our community needs the direct and open support of our City government. GLBTATL believes that Amir Farokhi is the best candidate for Atlanta City Council, Post 2 At-Large—both for Atlanta's LGBTQ+ community, and our City as a whole.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Southern Voice, David, and others have shut their doors

PQA reports that Window Media, LLC has shut its doors:
The publishers of Southern Voice and David Atlanta magazine—along with a handful of other gay publications—abruptly closed its doors over the weekend, ending a months-long battle with a federal receivership that has imperiled the gay media company.
This means that Southern Voice, Davïd Atlanta, and other regional gay newspapers (Washington Blade, Houston Voice, South Florida Blade, The 411 Magazine) are no more. As of this writing, some of their websites are still up, but appear to be overloaded or experiencing other intermittent errors.

To Laura Douglas-Brown, Dyana Bagby, Ryan Lee, Matt Schafer, and the other writers and editors of Southern Voice and David Atlanta, our hearts go out to you. This could be one of the worst possible times for gay community publications to shut down, just as American political sentiment is starting to turn towards equality once again.

In spite of previous (and embarrassingly newsworthy!) bickering between parts of Atlanta's LGBT community, GLBTATL.org is still here, and will be here to help in whatever ways we can. Please don't hesitate to call on us if there is some way we can help you during this time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The "Uniform Crisis" is over; can we please get down to real business now?

In response to pleas of varying hostility from those abused by APD officers on September 10, as well as some partially misguided attempts to find an early scapegoat, Officer Dani Lee Harris has decided not to wear her Atlanta Police Department uniform as grand marshal of the Atlanta Pride parade this coming Sunday, partly over concern for her own safety and her children's safety.

Congratulations on a meaningless victory, based on intimidating of one of our own. Friendly fire 1; real-world change 0 (or maybe 0.5, depending on whether recent changes in tactics are a genuine sign of the future).

Most of this unchecked animosity towards Officer Harris is based on her early comments about tactics of "officer safety" made barely after the raid, when she likely didn't know much more about the whole situation than the rest of us. Under APD's currently questionable leadership, and with no tangible information to give us, the best Officer Harris could do then was explain how the policies are defined as written. Whether she believes those policies are unethical or illegal is something she is likely prevented from expressing until the current legal issues are resolved.

So why should this "victory" be empty? We've let our anger branch out beyond the true issues and blind us to the real meaning of Pride: proving that LGBT+ Americans exist in all parts of society, and we are all working towards the same goals.

In Sunday's parade, we will see other out-and-proud, uniformed members of the Atlanta Police Department (and perhaps officers of other jurisdictions). Do we demand that all of them take off their uniforms because they somehow represent hate and injustice? Officers march in uniform at Pride not to offend or intimidate, but to prove that we have strong allies working within APD. We need those allies on our side, and their presence at Pride shows that they're willing to work for change for all of us.

So, too, will we see veterans of the United States armed forces in the parade. Do we demand that all of them leave their uniforms at home until "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is repealed? Countless heroes fight for our country today without questioning political motives, spending up to years at a time enduring humiliation, abuse, and even death for their sexual orientations and identities. But similarly, veterans march in uniform at Pride not to offend or intimidate, but to prove that we too believe in defending our country and our hometowns, despite their flaws.


I'm very happy that the owners of Atlanta Eagle have made the "no-uniform compromise" officially acceptable, and I hope this is finally the end of the matter. We've spent too long on this petty distraction from real action. Remember that we have critical local elections coming up next week, and with a new Mayor and Chief of Police, the incoming administration will have no choice but to find reconciliation for our grievances. Those same allies within APD will be our community's connection to the new leadership.


So... now that she has extended her compromise not to wear an APD uniform at Atlanta Pride, I have a request in kind for the rest of you:


If you see Officer Harris at Pride this weekend, please walk up to her and offer her a big hug. She is on our side. If we do not stand together, we shall most certainly fall.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Officer Harris and Atlanta Pride are not our enemies...

Contrary to minority opinion:

I’m all for patching up the relationship with the cops but shouldn’t there be a resolution before that happens? Last time I checked, the dictionary didn’t put “Reconciliation” before “Apology.” There is an ongoing internal police investigation, a criminal lawsuit and a civil rights lawsuit over the raid. Shouldn’t Pride have the decency to wait out the results before they put the Atlanta Police on a float to wave at us?
How could they do this to the 62 innocent men in that bar?
Pride To Victims: Drop Dead. The message is clear: The gay liaison to the Atlanta Police is more important than the civil rights of the 62 victimized men. And by extension, the entire gay community. Because what happened to those men could have happened to any of us.

This is a patently absurd statement, using guilt-by-association to equate Officer Dani Lee Harris to everyone else in the Atlanta Police Department. Atlanta Pride is not honoring APD; they're honoring one of our most respected community members, who also has inroads to the APD by working there herself. Officer Harris cannot speak officially for APD, but she is in a position to help fix the problems from within. That's a good thing.

With a great deal of respect due to Michael Alvear for helping to publicize the attack on Atlanta Eagle, I'm afraid that this time I must call shenanigans. I believe his heart is in the right place, but any anger should be pointed towards those responsible. Our community must not devolve into torch-wielding mob mentality, demonizing and demoralizing Officer Harris like this. By doing so, we too are attacking an innocent bystander (one who wants to be on our side).

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Don't Forget: Community Forum with APD on Monday

From the Atlantans Together blog post:



Atlantans Together Against Crime (ATAC) and the Virginia Highland Church are co-sponsoring a community forum Monday, October 5, 2009 from 6:30 pm until 8:00 pm. The event is free and open to the public. The forum will facilitate an open dialogue between concerned citizens, leaders within the LGBT community, and the Atlanta Police Department and will address concerns rising from the September 10, 2009 raid of The Eagle.

The forum aims to be a positive, productive, and pro-active meeting meant to foster dialogue, answer questions, and move relationships forward. Specific questions concerning The Eagle raid cannot be answered due to the outstanding investigation; however, questions of protocol, procedure, and others will be welcomed.

A press release with all confirmed attendees from the Atlanta Police Department as well as community organizations will be sent out this Friday, October 2, 2009.

For more information on attending, participating, or covering this event, please contact Kyle Keyser at (404) 217-1024 or kyle@atlantanstogether.org.

This forum is not a political function for any candidate for public office.

Virginia Highland Church is located at 743 Virginia Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30306. Parking is available across the street at Inman Middle School.

Facebook invite found here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Were you a victim of the September 10 raid? Speak up!

The owners of Atlanta Eagle have set up a special e-mail address for victims to coordinate legal efforts, and to tell their accounts.  If you were a victim of the police raid on September 10, please get in touch with Richard and Robby as soon as possible at: atlantaeaglecares@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Court case against Eagle staff postponed until Election Day

SoVo and AJC report that the staff of Atlanta Eagle who were arrested on September 10 will have to wait until Election Day (November 3) for arraignment:

All eight are represented by attorney Alan Begner, who said they were not required to attend court today.

Mary Stansel, who is prosecuting the case for the Atlanta solicitor’s office, asked for the arraignment to be reset. Judge Crystal Gaines agreed, while expressing her displeasure that this is the second time the arraignment has been put off. The Eagle employees first appeared in court the week after the raid, when their case was delayed until today.

The arraignment is now set for Nov. 3 if prosecutors and the defendants do not reach an agreement to resolve the cases before that date. Should the case go to trial, it would likely take place in January, according to Begner.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Anonymous "tipster" likely was disgruntled Eagle patron: SoVo

Southern Voice reports on the anonymous "tips" used to justify the undercover operation and finally raid on Atlanta Eagle (go here for a PDF version of the "tips"; last two pages of the document):
The two anonymous complaints that led to a controversial Atlanta Police Department raid on the Atlanta Eagle likely came from a disgruntled customer, according to the gay bar’s co-owner.

Richard Ramey said this week that a former customer who had been thrown out of the bar due to his temper is the one he suspects of sending the tips as an act of revenge. The customer was also thrown out of Southern Bears, a gay organization specifically named in an anonymous Crime Stoppers tip to the APD.

...Additionally:
Ramey said he cannot comment at this time on police reports that their undercover investigators witnessed sex acts in the bar’s back room.

“I can’t comment on the case because it is pending,” he said. “And I would love to comment. But none of that matters right now. What matters is those 62 patrons should not have been treated the way they were. They did not break any law — they were innocent bystanders,” he said. “There were no drugs found on anyone. No one was arrested for sex.”

Critics of the raid also question why the notorious anti-drug Red Dog unit was brought in to arrest men for allegedly violating a city code by dancing in their underwear. Many of the patrons said members of the Red Dog unit, wearing paramilitary gear, were the ones who treated them roughly while they were frisked, searched, had their cell phones confiscated and were forced to lay on the bar’s floor for up to an hour.

The Red Dog unit made national headlines in 2006 during a botched drug raid in which 92-year old grandmother Kathryn Johnston was killed after her home was stormed by three undercover officers with a no-knock warrant. The FBI investigated the shooting and the three officers were sentenced to federal prison.

Attorney Alan Begner, who is representing the Eagle and the eight men arrested, said whatever allegations police made, there was no reason for police to come in with an “army mentality” when dealing with simple alleged code violations.

...Reiterating a previous point about Officer Harris, who was named grand marshal for the Atlanta Pride parade before the raid, about the Sep. 19 "rainy rally":
Speaking first was the APD’s LGBT liaison Officer Dani Lee Harris, who said while she can’t comment on the investigation, the allegations raised by those in the bar that night concern her as well. Harris did not find out about the raid until contacted by the media.


Note that the organizers of the rainy rally, where Officer Harris spoke above, are still angry and holding a "community discussion" about Atlanta Pride's decision. Even though Atlanta Pride issued a letter defending that decision; and then decided to honor Eagle owners Robby Kelley and Richard Ramey as honorary grand marshals; and Officer Harris had nothing to do with, and was specifically excluded from knowing about, the raid on Atlanta Eagle... wait, we're protesting who? I'm confused.

GLBTATL.org does not share in that sentiment, and we hope that Officer Harris is able to help us find real answers to the issue. We feel that this distraction towards Atlanta Pride is only further shifting the issue away from its main point: 62 patrons assaulted, terrorized, and now left in fear; and we should be focused on helping them directly rather than going off on silly tangents.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pride adds Eagle owners as honorary grand marshals; issues letter regarding Officer Harris's selection

SoVo and PQA report that the owners of Atlanta Eagle have been named as honorary grand marshals for Atlanta Pride 2009, and that the Atlanta Pride Committee has issued an open letter regarding their selection of Officer Dani Lee Harris as grand marshal:

Making the announcement of Officer Harris as one of our grand marshals in the wake of the raid has caused some members of our community distress.  We understand how and why this is the case.  However, it is important to APC for our community to understand that we chose Officer Harris as grand marshal for two reasons:
  • She showed exemplary courage in publicly coming out as intersex while working in a potentially hostile environment.

  • Through speaking engagements and diversity training, she has served well as a voice for the LGBTQI community within a police force that includes gay and gay-friendly officers as well as others who still clearly have more to learn.
If Officer Harris had come out as intersex prior to the 2008 Pride Festival, it is quite possible that she would have been honored last year.  Her story came to light in the July 11, 2008 edition of Southern Voice. The Festival was held over Fourth of July weekend.

Officer Harris, we appreciate that you're in a sticky situation and hope that you are attempting to find a resolution. Please continue to talk with the community (and especially the victims) as openly as possible, to help get to the bottom of the Eagle raid issue. Just keep that communication going, and we'll be thrilled to cheer you on in the parade.

For those who think Officer Harris should step down, bear in mind that the person in charge is not Officer Harris. She has a boss too. Sometimes we don't agree with our bosses, yet we still try to make things work better from the inside.

And to everyone, remember your vote in November will help determine the new Mayor... and therefore who will pick the next Atlanta Police Chief. Talk to the candidates and vote wisely!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Such A Little Thing Makes Such A Big Difference



First of all, I want to make it clear that I (as the usual art guy) and GLBTATL.org had absolutely nothing to do with the abomination you see above. That was created by a "heterosexual ally of the LGBTQ community for years" who felt that it's OK to use the term FAGGOT flippantly. Well, let me tell you, the readers, and this "ally" that she has no right to use a word like that.

Hello, I'm Adam May. My name from third-grade onward was Adam Gay. Yes, I was the FAGGOT. I was that kid who stood out. I was that kid who never had a moment's peace because of straight people using the word FAGGOT. Some of you out there talk about coming out of the closet very passionately, but for some of us, there was no closet, ever.

Some of us were beaten and abused by straight people who simply assumed that it was OK to beat up a FAGGOT. I still keep a blood soaked T-shirt from a run-in with skinheads who were thrilled that a FAGGOT walked by so they could attack him. Should I hoist that up as a flag of reverence the next time a group of FAGGOTS get abused by straight bullies with badges?


That said, Ms. Gentle-Guerry, our "ally", take this message and keep it in your skull: You DO NOT have the right or the permission to use the word FAGGOT, ever. Not "in context", not "to make a point", not at all. By carelessly parroting that word, as someone who does not understand the deep hatred it conveys firsthand, you are no better than the monsters who called Matthew Shepard a FAGGOT over and over as they beat him to death.

By calling someone a "FAG," you are giving yourself and the people around you the license to either damage this individual verbally or physically.”


—Judy Shepard

You thought it acceptable to use the word FAGGOT to create a platform for your "Unite Midtown!" agenda on the already bruised backs of 70 people... people who were terrorized by bullies with badges, using hate speech and slurs to dehumanize them. You and the cops who abused those people on September 10, 2009 have a little something in common.

You claim to be an "ally" of the LGBTQ Community, but I can see through your facade. You (I know from being there myself) haven't been there, and will not be there for those from the Eagle who have been traumatized. Some of them may be in hiding in fear, and many are too tormented to seek the help that they need, because straight people like you think it's OK to use that word so frivolously.



Once again, GLBTATL.org had nothing at all to do with this piece of filth. It was created by a twenty-something straight woman who thinks she, as an "ally", can acceptably use this word. No one who has not lived a FAGGOT's life (especially a straight person claiming to be an "ally", who is just passing through on the way to the next political cause) has any right at all to use that word callously, when some of us have had to live with it our entire lives.

Ms. Gentle-Guerry, at one point, you threatened my partner and me with a lawsuit. Should you choose to follow up on that threat, this image serves as Exhibit A. Never forget that you created this grotesque abuse of our community's good faith, that you felt justified using that word. Shame on you. It will haunt you forever.

(...And that's why I chose not to attend, much less speak at, your rally.)

Mayor Shirley Franklin Weighs In (Briefly) on Eagle Raid

“If there are any allegations about misconduct it's our intention to investigate them and take the appropriate action. I believe that every person who lives or visits Atlanta should be treated fairly and justly."
For the full (momentary) interview, head over to Southern Voice.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What Went Wrong on Saturday (...and Why "Community" Means Something More to Us)

Adam May has written a follow-up that calls out a point which I should have made much more clear. Click here to read his post.

Sorry, we didn't all attend Saturday's protest in front of City Hall, but not because of the rain. Well, maybe the rain had a little to do with it, but in reality, the fact that TV news media hadn't even set up on-street for video made it pretty clear that the message intended to be put into yesterday's rally was lost. Only 40-60 non-media attendees were there. Sorry to disappoint you, SoVo and Creative Loafing, I love you both, but I couldn't count anywhere near 100 people, even if I included members of the press and filled in all the spaces between umbrellas with ghost apparitions. Andy Towle was at least a little closer to the mark. [Edit: I admit there could have been a peak of 100 at some point, as I was quietly coming by periodically and was not there the whole time. On average, the total number was not that high.] Sadly, this was Protest Fail, though I had tried my best to avoid this situation.

My name is Todd Vierling, and most of you don't know me directly, as I'm usually in the background getting the grunt work done. The few of you who do probably also know that I'm an infrequent but continual patron of Atlanta Eagle, and I have some personal connections to their regular clientele. I was "the boring nasal guy" speaking from the steps during the Sunday, September 13 rally at Eagle; I'm a decent speechwriter and organizer, but a mediocre public speaker. I'm also the person who did nearly all the legwork between the morning of Friday, Sep. 11, and Sunday, Sep. 13 to make that rally the several-hundred-attendee success that it was. (Think all the rally attendees primarily use Facebook to find information about a protest? Google Analytics would beg to differ. For comparison, the Facebook confirmed attendee count for yesterday's protest was 431, just a wee bit higher than reality.)

While we were at Atlanta Eagle trying to help plan Saturday's protest, a man told off my partner and me, saying, "What business is it of yours? You're just going to move on to your next cause and forget about us, and we still have to deal with the consequences." I thought he was just being a prick at first, but later on I realized the wisdom behind this remark. Let's be honest with ourselves for a moment; most activists who have come together in support of the Eagle won't stick around forever. Eventually, the media and the business will settle down, and this too shall pass. We'll return to business as usual and things will be at peace again. So I tried to explain that I was more than just an activist in this particular case, that I was a real patron too, and I'm still not sure whether that message was understood.

Saturday's protest would have been a success too, had we actually collaborated openly and honestly on it. However, one particular person, Laura Gentle-Guerry, the person who happened to put up Facebook pages about these rallies, saw fit to wrest as much absolute control as possible out of others' hands for this protest. Gradually over the course of the week, we were cut out of important conversations in spite of our requests for open communication. I was explicitly relegated solely to the role of (blind) publicist, issuing a press release with little detail but a lot of flash, and bluffing my way through phone calls with major national media outlets. My partner was told outright to "shut up" and assigned solely to artwork for prepared signage, with no theme or direction, supplanted anyway by Gentle-Guerry's own questionable flyer. She had anointed herself as the hub of communication, ignoring our experience that brought media coverage not just to the Sep. 13 rally, but to two other protest events over the past year. (To her credit, she did give a great, rousing speech on Sep. 13.)

If that wasn't enough of a kick in the pants, we still knew of not one speaker who was confirmed for yesterday's rally as of noon Friday -- the day before the event. Acting as publicist, I depended on that sort of information, as well as information on general theme, talking points, and so forth. Since our previous requests for communication earlier in the week were met with dodges and excuses, I had to lay down an ultimatum that the speaker list be sent to me by 2pm, so I could issue the final press release. That was met with "your combative attitude has really just wasted important time..." and more dodging.

Once the speaker list finally arrived after repeated pressing, the protest theme had obviously spidered outward to various marginally related community groups. This included people who really didn't have a vested interest -- yet -- in a bar that (as APD Deputy Chief Carlos Banda openly admitted) was raided in much the same way that six other bars were raided over the past few months. The focus on the 62 assaulted patrons of Atlanta Eagle, the primary message, was long gone -- replaced by a blasé, unfocused theme about City Hall politics [video of Gentle-Guerry]. She did exactly what that man predicted in his short rant directed at me: left Atlanta Eagle, its terrorized patrons, and its staff far behind. (Even the "after-rally party" was as a different place, while the Eagle was open and had a charity cook-out going on by the time the protest was over!) As a result, my partner did not attend on Saturday, and I only came by briefly a few times to observe in silence. GLBTATL may have even lost a member thanks to this power-grab nonsense and its related spin-doctoring.

I wish to digress for a moment to make a comparison. GLBTATL.org, as a pseudo-organization (it's unincorporated, meant as just a group name to give to the public, and a place to share information) was involved in a fair amount of the planning and preparation for January's protest of Rick Warren's keynote speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church. However, there came a point where we were trying to "volunteer" too much, and were justifiably told off about it by the African-American LGBT group leading the charge. In the context of King Day at Ebenezer, we were indeed the outsiders. So we backed off and moved back to a much more collaborative point of work, and generally that protest was well received by local and national media.

Laura Gentle-Guerry needs to learn this lesson at some point too. As much as it breaks my heart to have to put it this way, as I would rather not put her in the same group as someone so kind and loving as Judy Shepard: She is not one of us. She's the outsider here. Sure, she may well be a "heterosexual ally of the LGBTQ community for years" as she proclaimed at the Sep. 13 rally (after wheedling her way into a speaking position), but when all is said and done, my partner and I are two of the few who will still be here for Atlanta Eagle and its people. While she's off somewhere else trying to beef up her curriculum vitae, we'll still be here for the 62 (plus staff) who went through hell on September 10. A "community" protest cannot lock out the very community it claims to support. Teamwork cannot exist without a team, and a community cannot exist without organization.

I somehow feel validated for my skepticism early on, when I first saw Gentle-Guerry's public e-mail address: dictatorlaura@gmail.com. As some of my family might say, "There's just something not right about that."

So, now that I've blown off a little steam...

To the supporters who turned out Saturday for the protest, I applaud you, and I thank you most of all. No matter what happened with us over this event, your dedication to stand in pouring rain for this cause brought tears to my eyes. I wish we had the chance to help make this event something more dramatic and more eye-opening to the public.

To the patrons and staff of Atlanta Eagle, who are still the victims and the primary subject in this cause, my heart aches. I failed you this time. But I'm still here for you first and the broader community second. I made sure my priorities were in the correct order from the start.

We'll see where this goes. As GLBTATL, we'll continue to offer our help and resources to the business, staff, and patrons, as well as media, to get to the bottom of this outrage. We're not going to go off and talk for hours about unrelated issues and causes; we're going to keep fighting for the people who were detained, abused, and humiliated for no good reason on Thursday, September 10.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

GLBTATL.org Endorses Kyle Keyser for Atlanta Mayor

I know you're all waiting for some news from today's rally, and we have a post on that pending, which will be posted tomorrow. For now, we have a big announcement to make.

Full press release after the jump....

Saturday Protest Details on Facebook

As GLBTATL will not be able to be in full attendance of the protest on Saturday, you can find the full details on the protest's Facebook page.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Protest at Atlanta City Hall this Saturday

We officially announced a protest at Atlanta City Hall on Saturday. (Most of you knew this was coming, but we held off on announcing it until questions about an assembly permit were answered.)

The full press release is available after the jump.

Resource Center Roundup

To reduce confusion on the information we've been rounding up about the Atlanta Eagle police raid incident, we've created a one-stop shop for it in our Resource Center, with an easy to remember link: glbtatl.org/eagle-raid

Still to be posted there: photo and video collection links; archived news; and some other documents. We will be adding more to that resource site over the next few days.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gentle Reminder: Atlanta Eagle Still Open!

Come show your support!

If you've been following our coverage or news coverage of the Atlanta Eagle raid and its aftermath, you may be inclined to think that the police raid shut down the establishment. That is definitely not true; the bar was even open the very next day.

Please come out to show your support this coming weekend. If you can, especially try to make it out to Atlanta Eagle on Thursday night. The underwear dancers are on hold (for obvious reasons), but since we're not a part of the Eagle, we're unofficially designating it the "We Support Atlanta Eagle" Appreciation Night (Facebook page for event).

Since there's no theme for Thursday, make your own! If you want to wear something different for the night that you don't normally wear walking down the street, give it a try. Pull that old vest or jacket out of mothballs, or those ranch chaps you never use anymore, and live up to the "leather image" for a day. Or wear whatever you want. Just come out, and more importantly, have fun.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Independent Atlanta Citizen Review Board accepting complaints

If you were present at Atlanta Eagle on Thursday, September 10 during the raids and were one of the harassed patrons, then you have another agency who is willing to hear your complaint. The Atlanta Citizen Review Board is an independent agency founded by city ordinance in 2007, and handles (only) complaints dealing with:
  • abusive language;
  • false arrest;
  • false imprisonment;
  • harassment;
  • use of excessive force;
  • serious bodily injury; or
  • death that is alleged to be the result of the actions of a sworn employee of the Atlanta Police Department or the Atlanta Department of Corrections.
Of the above, "abusive language", "harassment", and "use of excessive force" may apply to you. If you wish to file a complaint with ACRB, they have an online complaint form as well as a printable PDF version of the form.

Police documents from Eagle raid online

Our Resource Center has a PDF copy of the documents distributed after the Atlanta Police Department statement yesterday (Monday, Sep. 14).

Talk to the Council at Atlanta City Hall

Today at 2:30pm you can talk to the City Council to make your voice heard about the Atlanta Eagle raid incident.

There is, coincidentally enough, an Atlanta City Council Public Safety committee meeting at 3:00pm, and you are allowed two minutes of speaking time to address the committee if you come to 55 Trinity Ave SW at 2:30 to sign in for speaking. The meeting will be held in Committee Room 2 (per schedule, but ask when you get there to be sure).

Not all of the City Council members will be there; it's likely that only the members of that committee (notably, not including Lisa Borders) will be in attendance. We don't know how long the meeting itself will last, but the agenda is here. Public comments will be heard after the main meeting, so you'll be sitting through the agenda first.

For more information, please feel free to call our hotline at 888-GLBT-ATL or e-mail info@glbtatl.org.

Atlanta Eagle Raid: Protest Transcript (2/3 done)

I've been getting a lot of requests, primarily from media, for an accurate transcript of the public statements at Sunday's rally. The transcription process is a little slow, but I'm trying to be careful about accuracy in the process. The work so far, two-thirds of the rally, can be found at glbtatl.org/eagle-raid-transcript.

Sometime tomorrow afternoon, it will be updated with the remainder filled in, including Richard Ramey's fantastic quote: "I want to know why they thought it took 30 police officers to control 62 homosexuals." (You can see part of his comments on YouTube; the quote is at 0:59.)

We'll post a (mostly complete, but somewhat muffled-sounding) MP3 of the rally tomorrow, and start chopping up the video we have for clips as well.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Atlanta Eagle Raid: Protest Transcript (in progress)

We are working on transcribing the statements given at today's rally.  As of this writing, the original prepared statement script -- and of course, no one sticks to the original script perfectly -- is transcribed at glbtatl.org/eagle-raid-transcript.  Tomorrow we'll update that link with a real transcription from our video recording, including all third party speakers as well.

(As for our own video recording, the good segments will be posted and linked here; other segments are a little camera-shaky.  It's tough to stand on uneven pavement with a sore foot, and hold a digital camera continuously above chest height for over an hour.  Thanks go to Adam for taking one for the team there....  <grin>)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Atlanta Eagle Raid: Atlanta Candidates Respond

We are rounding up the public statements in response to the Atlanta Eagle raid in our Resource Center.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Eagle Protest Flyer PDF

If you want a convenient information flyer to print, here you go.

Official Atlanta Eagle Protest Press Release

The following is the official press release sent to media outlets today.

ATLANTA, GA--On Thursday, September 10, the Atlanta Police Department raided the Atlanta Eagle, a bar catering to Atlanta's gay community, arresting staff members and allegedly rough-handling and harassing patrons. This action is believed to be expressly targeted at the gay community of Atlanta, and without sufficient basis for the severity of the raid and search action.

DEMONSTRATION PLANNED:

An independent rally-style demonstration in protest of these actions is scheduled for Sunday, September 13, assembling at 5:00 p.m. in the Atlanta Eagle parking lot (off Argonne Ave. behind Ponce de Leon Ave.). After a short summary statement, those who were allegedly harassed during the incident will be invited to share their stories, if they wish to do so.

Following this, the group plans to conduct a short, peaceful march to the steps of City Hall East at 675 Ponce de Leon Ave., for reading of one or more additional prepared statements. A statement by a representative of GLBTATL will specifically address the conduct of Atlanta Police Department officers in this incident, and will include an open invitation to APD to address these issues in a civil and direct manner. (Candidates for municipal offices will also be invited to speak at this time.)

LOCAL CANDIDATES ASKED TO RESPOND:

We are asking members of, and candidates for, Atlanta City Council district 6 and at-large posts to attend the demonstration to show their support for Atlanta's LGBT community; or if that is not possible, that they issue official statements in response to this incident.

We are asking the candidates for Mayor of Atlanta to address the issue during their debate on public safety being held the same day (coincidentally sponsored by the Atlanta Police Foundation). That debate will air live on WSB-TV 2 and WSB-AM 750 at 6:30 p.m.

FURTHER INFORMATION:

The organizers would like to give special thanks to City Council candidates Miguel Gallegos (for district 6) and Shelitha Robertson (for post 3 at-large) for their assistance to the Atlanta Eagle and their employees.

Media are encouraged to attend. For more information, see GLBTATL.org, or call 888-GLBT-ATL (888-452-8285).  Calls will be routed directly to the event organizers.

Friday, September 11, 2009

ATLANTA EAGLE PROTEST: DATE CHANGE

Sorry for the late notice, but we have been notified by (a lot of!) people that there are a few major events happening tomorrow that will prevent them from attending, and we want as many as possible to show up.  As a result, we are changing the date to SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 13 (still at 5pm).

If you have any questions, please give us a call at 888-GLBT-ATL (888-452-8285).

ATLANTA EAGLE RAIDED: PROTEST INFO & BREAKING NEWS

BREAKING NEWS:  I have just learned that an Atlanta judge has allowed the employees of the Atlanta Eagle who were arrested to post bond, so they will be able to go home safely tonight.  As of this writing, the only charge filed is a minor City ordinance violation.  (Atlanta Eagle will probably provide its own press release, after the current affairs settle, to go into further detail.)

Remember show your solidarity by showing up at 8pm tonight. Even if you don't drink, buy a bottle of water... and don't forget to tip generously. The staff needs your support.


Tomorrow's protest will consist of an assembly in the Atlanta Eagle parking lot at 5pm (off of Argonne Ave. behind Ponce De Leon Ave.), followed by possible podium speech(es), and finally a march to the Atlanta Police Headquarters at 226 Peachtree St. This will be a peaceful march of protest against the targeting of gay establishments by Atlanta police.

To recap:  Last night the Atlanta Eagle was raided by uniformed police officers. During this raid, a number of employees were arrested; and many patrons were allegedly forced to the floor violently, and allegedly held that way for a half hour or more.  This behavior is something we cannot tolerate from those sworn to protect our communities from crime.  The police should be our friends and neighbors, not our enemies.

More news to come.  We will be inviting some public names to the protest.

ATLANTA EAGLE RAIDED: SHOW OF SOLIDARITY TONIGHT 8PM

We are still planning a protest for tomorrow; more information to come in another post soon, so keep watch on this blog. (We are talking with the owners of the Eagle before committing to a time and structure, to ensure that a protest will be conducted safely and peacefully, and will not cause additional problems for the bar or its owners.)

However, TONIGHT at Atlanta Eagle, please come out to show your solidarity for us by being there at 8pm. This is not a themed protest, just a gathering of support in light of last night's sudden police action against a landmark gay Atlanta business.  If you drink, buy one.  If you don't, buy a bottled water.  Show your support!

The Eagle is known for being a safe gathering place for Atlanta's gay community for 22 years, with admission always free to the public. Come out tonight at 8pm to show Atlanta that the GLBT community demands respect and won't stand for anything less.

ATLANTA EAGLE RAIDED: PROTEST PLANNED

The information is still coming in, but here's some news links to get you started.  GLBT|ATL cannot vouch for the accuracy of the reports of behavior by police, employees, or patrons at this time, but what is clear is that this raid was conducted in a manner that demands scrutiny and response.

http://www.sovo.com/thelatest/thelatest.cfm?blog_id=27142

http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/news/0508.html

http://www.projectqatlanta.com/news_articles/view/police_accused_of_harassment_during_eagle_raid/

I know you haven't heard much from GLBT|ATL in quite a while, but we are not going to stand by while things like this happen in our own community.  We are planning a protest for tomorrow --TIME TBD SO PLEASE KEEP WATCH ON THIS BLOG -- and those interested can also find an event page related to the protest on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=71765164966

We will post an update to this blog some time in the next 2-3 hours as the information coming in becomes more clear.  If you need to reach a representative of GLBT|ATL in the interim, we can be reached at 888-GLBT-ATL (888-452-8285).

Monday, May 25, 2009

Day of Decision: Meet Us at Piedmont Park Tomorrow

In case you haven't heard the news yet, on Tuesday (that's tomorrow!), the California Supreme Court will announce their decision on the legal challenge to Proposition 8. This is rapidly becoming known as the "Day of Decision".

Will the courts overturn the amendment or allow discrimination to be permanently written in to the state's constitution?

The ruling is expected in the early hours of the day, and we have contacted all of the Atlanta Mayor hopefuls, asking them to join GLBTATL and our supporters in Atlanta's Piedmont Park (at the 14th St. and Piedmont Ave. entrance) at 5:30 p.m.

Regardless of the outcome we will be there, to continue to make our voices be heard: Equality--Now.

Let your friends know! We have a Facebook page for the event, a Twitter feed, and a page on the Day of Decision Wetpaint site. But to make this information easier to find, all you need to remember is glbtatl.org/marriage. (Our phone lines are open too if you need more information: 1-888-GLBT-ATL.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Give Your State Legislators Your Two Cents!

You haven't heard from us in a little while, partly because those of us behind GLBT|ATL have been catching up with real life, but mainly because we didn't want to get our message lost in the national political shift that has kept the country's attention.  Now that Washington has started to settle, we still have important work to do here at home in Georgia.

So what has happened in the meantime?  Marriage equality has arrived in two more states, with the most surprising (or least surprising, depending on which historian you believe) being Iowa.  Equality has come to America's "heartland" while the South, as usual, lags behind.

As we hinted during the We Still Have a Dream event, we're kicking off a new campaign to get citizens in touch with their elected officials.  We're calling it My 2¢ (My Two Cents), and you'll understand that name in a moment.

Tomorrow at Kennesaw State University, GLBT|ATL will have a table set up at the Kennesaw Pride Alliance Summit.  Our goal:  to get citizens to pull out their pens and write to their legislators, about how equality matters in Georgia just like it does in Iowa and Vermont.  To drive the point home, we're asking participants to tape two pennies to each letter--both literally and figuratively "giving two cents".  We will make it clear that the LGBT community and our friends are just as much part of Georgia as everyone else, and we want our legislators to bring change to Georgia too.

The Summit is only the kickoff of this extended campaign.  We must sieze this historic opportunity to engage our elected officials in a real conversation about equal rights.  It's not just an issue for Iowa or Vermont or California; it's an issue for all Americans, Georgians included.

So get ready!  Over the next week we'll be preparing useful Web resources, including a legislator lookup service, printable template letters, and suggestions on how to get your legislators to sit up and pay attention.  You'll also see some event invitations very soon for opportunities to talk face-to-face with GLBT|ATL organizers, and perhaps some of our Representatives, Senators, and Atlanta mayor hopefuls too.

You can get more information about this campaign at any time by going to glbtatl.org/my2cents or by subscribing to our announcement list at glbtatl.org/announce.  If you don't get involved, someone else will speak for you--and will that person give the universal message of equality too?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Recap of We Still Have a Dream, and What's Next

The news has come in, the videos and photos are being posted, and now that the protest (and historical inauguration of President Obama) are done, it's time to look toward the future.

We had no idea what to expect as far as turnout to We Still Have a Dream, but at the peak there were a little over 100 of us standing on the southwest corner of Auburn and Jackson to convey our protest message. Unfortunately we were cordoned off well away from where most of the general public was entering Ebenezer, which we found a bit concerning from a free assembly perspective, but it wasn't a loss, as the most important audience (the media) took notice.

As an organization, we'd like to thank the Atlanta Black LGBT Coalition for their hard work and dedication in planning this event. While many people came into this with different views and ideas, the Coalition showed strong leadership. Without them, the event would not have been as successful as it was.

We have to take a moment to clarify one point of information glossed over by the news media. GLBT|ATL and the Atlanta Black LGBT Coalition did not participate in the in-church protest action conducted by another organization. We certainly appreciate the great diversity of thought in this country that makes it possible for us to express our disagreements in a public forum, and the many methods by which points like these can be expressed. And admittedly, there was probably a little part in each of us, nagging us to confront Rick Warren directly too. However, for the Coalition and GLBT|ATL, we decided in the end to confine our protest action to the outside grounds, to keep our demonstration closely in line with Dr. King's own vision and nonviolent methods.

Tonight we've started to post the news video we've accumulated onto our YouTube channel, and the clips should start showing up a little while after this post. For the moment, here's a sampling of the print news and blog coverage we've found since the demonstration:

...So, you ask, where are we going from here? "That's a good question."

GLBT|ATL is going to be taking a well-needed breather from protest actions for a while, and take this time to refocus on our original purpose: raising awareness. The gay community and our friends and allies have been somewhat dormant for about eight years (must be a coincidence...) and it's time for us to get out there, have fun, and be ourselves again. We have some possible event ideas in the planning stages; though it's a little too early to go into details yet, we'll be putting together some methods of outreach intended to get the LGBT community and the rest of Atlanta talking once again.

We're also looking to connect with you, those who have reawakened from political hibernation to the possibility of a brighter future for all of us. While this blog and the announcement list have been somewhat one-sided, we're going to open up some online discussion forums shortly, and are looking into ways to bring a more social aspect back to social networking. If you're particularly motivated or just have a good idea for an interesting event, please don't hesitate to contact us directly. Our small handful of people may be able to put together small activities today, but we really want to get people together again, to help to put the community back into Atlanta's GLBT community.

Monday, January 19, 2009

We Still Have a Dream: Recap to Come

The demonstration went well and had a decent turnout. There will be an in-depth recap here later tonight tomorrow as we collect news coverage and video clips. We'll also have some responses to some of the criticisms we've received over the protest, as well as a longer term view for GLBT|ATL's future outside of the recent (and yes, we know, repetitive) protests.

Unfortunately, we can't comment directly on the MLK March and Rally. When we left the protest area to switch cars for the march, Adam and Todd found a dead battery in their car, and spent the better part of the afternoon dealing with badly designed mounting brackets and bolts replacing it. We'll try to get an impression of the March from members of the Atlanta Black LGBT Coalition for posting here.

(Edit: So it seems the news has been slowly hitting the reactionary media and blog outlets. Rather than try to jump the gun here, we're going to let that work itself out overnight and give a recap tomorrow.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

We Still Have A Dream: Last-Minute Updates & Corrections

The following changes have already been corrected in the online version of the original information post.

The traditional Bayard Rustin Breakfast has changed this year to become the Bayard Rustin/Audre Lorde breakfast, to honor Audre Lorde's contributions to the civil rights and feminist movements.

There is now shuttle transportation from the protest location to the Rustin/Lorde Breakfast. Floyd Taylor has graciously offered to shuttle people from the protest location to the breakfast, and will pick up passengers starting some time after 10:00 a.m. on Edgewood Ave. near Jackson St. Outwrite Bookstore has offered their parking lot to protest attendees as well, and Floyd has offered to shuttle people to/from Outwrite as well. Call him at 404-543-8238 for information.

As before, if you need more information about the demonstration, you may call us at 888-GLBT-ATL (888-452-8285).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

We Still Have A Dream: Everything You Need To Know!

We've rolled all the information you need for Monday morning's protest of Rick Warren at Ebenezer Baptist Church into this post. Print it and have it handy! Send it to your friends! Bring everyone you can!


WHO AND WHY:

Atlanta's Black LGBT Coalition will be protesting Rick Warren's invitation to be keynote speaker at Ebenezer Baptist Church on the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. GLBT|ATL is working with the Coalition to coordinate the event, as we believe that Warren, speaking in a position of honor at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Service, is an affront to Dr. King's Dream of unity for all Americans—regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender and gender identity, religion, and all other aspects that make America the wonderfully diverse culture that it is.

Most groups involved in this protest will focus on a message of unity and equality, and some will be referencing Warren's attitudes toward the LGBT community. Other activist groups and organizations may be planning on attending, whether to join in the message of equality, or to protest Warren's presence for a number of other causes. We welcome all nonviolent demonstration attendees.


WHEN AND WHERE:
January 19, 2009, at 9:00 a.m., Auburn Ave. east of Jackson St. in downtown Atlanta


The demonstration will take place on Auburn Ave. just east of Jackson St., which will be closed to vehicles. If attendance is larger than expected, it may spill onto adjacent areas. A complete online map of the area with march route and closed streets is available at glbtatl.org/dream-map. You can get an abbreviated one-sheet printable version in PDF format at glbtatl.org/dream-map.pdf. See "How To Get There" below for more information on how best to get to the protest.

Representatives of both Atlanta's Black LGBT Coalition and GLBT|ATL will be wearing red ribbon armbands. GLBT|ATL's toll-free contact line is 888-GLBT-ATL (888-452-8285), and we will be answering the line during the event. If you have trouble finding your way to the demonstration or need more information, give us a call.


WHAT AND HOW:

Atlanta's Black LGBT Coalition consists of members of several local African-American activist groups. They plan on conducting a peaceful protest, which could involve chanting, singing, and cheering. Coalition and GLBT|ATL representatives will have some free, ready-to-use protest signs on hand, as well as information on suggested chants and songs to be used at some time during the demonstration.

The Annual Commemorative Service is held inside Ebenezer Baptist Church and will begin at 10:00 a.m. We have not been able to confirm the exact time of Warren's speech, but we expect that he will speak close to that time. The Coalition and GLBT|ATL suggest that, at the time Rick Warren begins to speak, demonstration attendees turn their backs to the Jumbotron screen to symbolize our disapproval of his presence.

We do understand that other groups and individuals may wish to convey their message(s) in different ways, such as whistles or air horns, self-made signs, or other forms of expression. We encourage you to join in with the rest of us with chants, songs, and so forth, and we humbly ask everyone to act in a peaceful and respectful manner in the tone of Dr. King's legacy of nonviolent protest.

In particular, protesters are urged not to target Ebenezer Baptist Church. The church did not have a voice in selecting Warren to speak at the service; the decision to invite him was made by The King Center. If you would like to express your message of disapproval to The Center directly, their contact information is at the bottom of this post under "Other Ways To Help".


LAW ENFORCEMENT:

There will be Atlanta law enforcement present at the demonstration, including our lesbian and gay allies at the Atlanta Police Department.

Please respect law enforcement officers and allow them to help the crowd assemble. They are there for your safety and security as much as anyone else's. (On top of that, the Atlanta Police Department's budget is getting cut this year, so some of them may be there as unpaid volunteers!)


HOW TO GET THERE:

The King Holiday is a day of many downtown Atlanta events, so car parking will be very hard to find even without a protest. There are downtown parking lots that will be open, but we cannot guarantee any availability of spaces.

If you plan on coming to the demonstration, we therefore recommend taking MARTA if possible. Parking is available at many MARTA stations (Inman Park Station, just down the street from King Memorial, has a sizable parking lot). See MARTA's rail map for more information on available parking.

MARTA trips cost $1.75 each way, and payment is made via a Breeze Card, which can be bought at the vending machines at each rail station entrance. For those without a plastic Breeze Card, a paper Breeze Ticket can be bought at the machine for $4.00, including one round-trip fare (you won't need to add more). Cash, credit cards, and debit cards are accepted at the machines.
  • Take the MARTA rail system to King Memorial Station. For those starting on the North/South lines, go to Five Points Station, then go up one floor to the "Eastbound" platform. Any eastbound train from Five Points Station will take you to King Memorial (2 stops).

  • At King Memorial, tap your card/ticket at the exit gate sensor so that it can be used to transfer to a bus. Go down to street level and get on either bus 99, or bus 397 (from the street-side pickup location). Tell the bus driver you are going to Ebenezer and need to exit at Edgewood. If you aren't sure if the bus is going the right direction, just ask the driver! Tap your card/ticket on the bus to activate the transfer when you board.

  • Buses and trains will be using Saturday schedules for the King Holiday. Bus 99 is scheduled to pick up at King Memorial at 8:15 a.m. Bus 397 is scheduled to pick up at King Memorial at 8:26 a.m. and 9:11 a.m.

  • If you parked at Inman or need an alternative time, Bus 397 is scheduled to pick up at Inman Park Station (going the other way via Edgewood; ask to exit at Jackson St.) at 8:00 a.m. and 8:45 a.m.

  • Walking alternative from train station: If you don't mind walking 1/4 mile in January weather, you can skip the bus. When you exit King Memorial Station, go to the street (Decatur St.) and turn right. The second intersection, right where Decatur St. curves to the left, is Jackson St. Cross the street and follow Jackson St. all the way to the Edgewood Ave. (This route is the blue line on the area map.)

  • Once you get to Edgewood Ave., cross and follow Jackson St. to the protest location at Auburn Ave. (Look for the crowd. You shouldn't be able to miss it!)

OTHER HOLIDAY EVENTS:
  1. Atlanta's Black LGBT Coalition is hosting a Bayard Rustin/Audre Lorde breakfast. Bayard Rustin was a gay African-American civil rights activist who was key in organizing the 1963 March on Washington, and an advisor to Dr. King who helped to shape the modern American concept of nonviolence based on Mahatma Gandhi's approach. Audre Lorde was a Carribean-American feminist who helped to reshape the feminist movement to be more inclusive beyond white middle-class women. The breakfast will be held at 139 Ralph McGill Blvd. (the cup icon on the area map) at 10:30 a.m.

    Shuttle transportation: Floyd Taylor has graciously offered to shuttle people from the protest location to the breakfast, and will pick up passengers starting some time after 10:00 a.m. on Edgewood Ave. near Jackson St. Outwrite Bookstore has offered their parking lot to protest attendees as well, and Floyd has offered to shuttle people to/from Outwrite as well. Call him at 404-543-8238 for information.

  2. Members and friends of the LGBT community are invited to participate in the annual MLK March and Rally beginning at 1:00 p.m. The assembly point for LGBT individuals and groups is at Peachtree St. and Ellis St. (in front of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel) at 12:30 p.m.

    Walking from Bayard Rustin breakfast to march: Go west to Courtland St. and turn left; then walk 4 blocks to Ellis St. and turn right; then 2 blocks to Peachtree St.

    Walking from Ebenezer to march: Go west on Auburn Ave. to Peachtree Center Ave. (1/2 mile) and turn right; walk 2 blocks to Ellis St. and turn left; then 1 block to Peachtree St.

    Taking MARTA to march: Exit at Peachtree Center Station, then follow signs to the Ellis St. side of the station. Use the long escalator on the LEFT (southeast exit). You will come out at the corner of Peachtree St. and Ellis St.

DOWNLOADS!

In addition to the area map, we are preparing some downloadable media for you at glbtatl.org/toolbox/dream. There are already some ready-to-print sign graphics available, and we'll be posting additional media shortly—more signs, Rick Warren video clips and background information, and more—so check back frequently!


OTHER WAYS TO HELP:

Can't make it to the demonstration? You can still express your disapproval by writing or calling The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. As always, keep it mature and respectful, because hate-filled messages (while sometimes funny to hear!) usually don't get the point across.

Make sure to tell the Center where you live, what your objection is to their invitation for Rick Warren as keynote speaker, and how that invitation impacts your own feelings about equality, peace, and unity.