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).

First and foremost, Officer Dani Lee Harris was indeed not informed of the raid, and by some unconfirmed allegations, was actively prevented from knowing about it. So any anger about this situation should be directed at Police Chief Pennington (and by extension, Mayor Shirley Franklin), not Officer Harris.

Thanks to exposure through media (hat-tips to SoVo and PQA) and communication with others such as myself, Officer Harris was at the Eagle the very next day, September 11, to hear the victims' accounts directly — and for that matter, talk with TV and print media about it too. It's absurd to think that someone, allegedly complicit in the Atlanta Police Department's actions on the 10th, would have walked into Eagle alone and in uniform, to talk to the victims on-the-level.

The organizers of the September 19 "rainy rally" invited Officer Harris as an honored speaker, to show that our community has an ally working at APD, working from within to remedy this issue. Yet those same organizers took to stabbing Harris in the back (through outrage also directed towards Atlanta Pride) less than four days later.

Atlanta Pride selected Officer Harris as grand marshal long before the raid because of her coming out as intersex. That means that we have one of our community's own, out and proud in the APD, who knows what persecution feels like. In context of the APD's actions on September 10, Officer Harris is an even more appropriate choice for Pride grand marshal, not less.

Should Officer Harris have come out to condemn the action publicly? In run-up to the November 3 Atlanta municipal elections, where Chief Pennington is guaranteed an ouster, she'd be very likely to lose her job and not be around to help our community going forward. This isn't something covered by "whistleblower protection" — so we as a community would prefer no advocate at all?

Officer Harris has been invaluable in her role as liaison. Her help was instrumental in effecting the protest of Rick Warren's keynote speech at the King Center on MLK Day this year. Multiple community organizations worked together to make that event happen, and Harris obtained police cooperation (and protection!) for the protesters that morning.

So to address Alvear's suggestions for Atlanta Pride, ignoring the fact that the committee doesn't have the capital to donate to a legal defense fund:
  • What if Pride strips Officer Harris of her grand marshal status? Let's all send a big "F. You" to the intersex community.

  • What if Pride demands that Officer Harris not appear in uniform? Let's send the message to our whole community that we despise all Atlanta police, not just the ones who should be held to account for their crimes.
We as a community should be supporting Officer Harris and helping her to do her job. Expecting her to make public changes to the APD at breakneck speed runs contrary to common sense. The fact remains, we have someone working to make things better from the inside... yet here we are, playing the roles of Herodias and Salomé, demanding the head of a good and compassionate person on a platter.

This is reprehensible and shameful behavior from the LGBT+ community.  We're supposed to show that our community is better than this. Mindless backstabbing of Dani Lee Harris must stop, right now. I'm willing to walk in the parade with Officer Harris, proudly wearing her uniform, and the rest of you should be absolutely willing to do the same.

To those who truly believe Officer Harris is culpable for the APD's raid on Atlanta Eagle, I implore you to take a breather, step back, and get a broader perspective. Throwing hate at anyone within eyeshot will only ensure that this issue will never be resolved.

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