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.

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.


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.)


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.


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


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).


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.


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.


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.




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:


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).