This is a story of rights violations, unlawful searches, false imprisonment, anti-gay discrimination, lies, destruction of evidence, naked bigotry, and it should serve as a reminder to ALL of us – GLBT or not – that Americans still have Constitutional Rights in this country which too many cops are FAR too willing to violate with impunity. There will be a link provided later in this diary which will provide details that you should study and learn because . . . they’re your rights!
Don’t you dare for a single second believe that the police are going to help you to maintain your civil rights and/or your Constitutional Rights when they believe you to be guilty. They will do everything that they have to – sometimes even lie – to get you to relinquish your rights. At times, as in the case you’re going to read about here, they’ll even violate your rights with force and aggression though you be innocent of any wrongdoing.
Now, let’s get into the meat of this after that weird, squiggly thing Markos seems to love to have in every diary.
On the night of September 10, 2009, a dozen cops burst through the door of the Eagle - a popular gay nightclub in Atlanta, Georgia. The bar was being raided. The raid itself was signaled to begin by one or more of the several plain-clothes undercover cops of the Atlanta Police Department (APD) who had entered the club without a warrant (but for the express purpose of conducting a criminal investigation) and were posing as customers. The uniformed cops raiding the club also entered without a warrant. In all, the APD used at least 10 police cars and at least 15 cops to conduct this raid.
According to witnesses, the cops
. . . stormed into the bar with an overwhelming display of force, shoving patrons (including older men) to the floor, kicking down doors, shouting anti-gay slurs, and threatening to hit patrons in the head with barstools when they asked what was happening. Patrons were forced to lay face-down on the floor, which was covered in some areas with spilled beer and broken glass, and were not allowed to move even after officers had searched them and determined that no-one was armed. Some patrons were handcuffed, and many were threatened with physical violence if they questioned the officers in any way.
Eyewitness accounts of several Eagle patrons are available at the link provided above.
Many witnesses later claimed that they and others were subjected to anti-gay slurs, derogatory comments, and insulting remarks by the cops – mostly about their (the patrons’) sexuality.
Everybody in the club that night was forced to lie on the floor – many while handcuffed – as they were thoroughly searched. The police confiscated everyone’s ID and entered their names into a police database. No weapons were found. No drugs were found. After being put through this treatment for as long as two hours in some cases, not a single patron was ever charged with a crime. The four dancers hired by the club (who were entertaining at the club’s weekly “Underwear Party”) were charged with dancing in their underwear without a permit, and four of the club’s employees were charged with operating an adult entertainment establishment without a license.
All eight defendants were later found not guilty or had their charges dismissed.
LINK to a blurb about this.
These eight people would eventually come to be known as “The Eagle 8”.
Eventually, a federal lawsuit was filed.
The Atlanta Citizen Review Board concluded that False Arrests were made (August 18, 2010), there was Police Misconduct (June 11, 2010), and they found 24 APD cops guilty of False Imprisonment (September 12, 2010). The details of these decisions as well as many, many useful links are available at THIS WEBSITE which bills itself as the “official site” of the Atlanta Eagle raid. If this one isn’t the official site, it sure as Hell should be. The oldest events are at the bottom. The most recent developments appear at the top of the website, so if you want to read the details in order – start at the bottom.
The mayor of Atlanta formally apologized. This apology came only after the City of Atlanta reached a monetary settlement worth more than one million dollars with the plaintiffs in the case.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten approved the settlement which found that the plaintiffs were "unlawfully searched, detained, and/or arrested" that night and that none of them was "personally suspected of any criminal activity." In addition to the cash settlement, a list of “reforms” was required. Those reforms are to be consistent with the following constitutional requirements:
CLICK ON THIS IMPORTANT LINK
READ the Constitutional requirements in this link and LEARN THEM. This is the link that I promised you in the first paragraph. It is important. Yes, THAT important. Click it. Click it NOW.
At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, “Self, it seems as though it all worked out in the end. The arrested got compensated, a few cops got their wrists slapped by the Citizen Review Board, and the APD has to follow the Law of the Land.” Not so fast, my friend! Here is where Justice got Served, and I mean great, steaming PILES of Justice was served up in high style.
I read at this extraordinary and valuable website ,which is a clearinghouse for misconduct reports (and could seriously use your support), that the City of Atlanta has gone the final mile – the mile it honestly needed to go in order to make this a truly JUST end. It directed me to this website which details the action taken against the cops who ignored the rights of their fellow Americans, participated in various anti-gay bigotry, and then lied about the whole thing. The details:
Officer Craig Condon – Written Reprimand
Officer Christopher Dowd – Written Reprimand
Officer Dion Meredith – Written Reprimand
Officer William Walters – Written Reprimand
Officer Robert C. Godwin – 2 days suspension
Officer Vincent Marcano – 2 days suspension
Investigator Timothy McClain – 4 days suspension
Sgt. Kelley Collier – 20 days suspension
Officer Darnell Perry, Investigator Jared Watkins, and Officer Dimitri Jacques will face disciplinary hearings next week.
Major Debra Williams was demoted to lieutenant. She subsequently retired effective July 6, 2011 – the day before her demotion was to have taken effect.
The following 6 officers were fired for “lack of truthfulness" (bureaucrat-ese for “lying”):
Lt. Tony Crawford
Sgt. Willie Adams
Sgt. John Brock
Investigator Bennie Bridges
Officer Jeremy Edwards
Officer Cayenne Mayes
Two other officers involved in the raid on the Eagle, Brandon Jackson and James Menzoian, had already been fired for lying in unrelated cases.
THAT, my friends, is Justice Served on fine china. That is Justice Served on behalf of the citizens of Atlanta, the people of Georgia, Americans everywhere, and GLBT communities across this country. The results of this case have been reverberating in every Police Department in the USA. This case will, I believe, serve as a landmark decision for decades to come and should help to eradicate anti-gay bigotry in police departments nationally. It certainly isn’t a cure, but it should help alot.
Before I return you to your regularly-scheduled blog, I want to make something perfectly clear to everybody: I do not hate cops. In fact, I have tremendous respect for those law enforcement officers who make it a point to uphold the law while they enforce those same laws. Also, I have a small personal connection to one of the three City of Pittsburgh officers who were murdered in the line of duty last year. I will not provide details, but I’ll tell you that the funeral mass of the officer I mention here was held in the same church in which I was baptized and in which I was married. He was a very good man who is sincerely missed by the entire community in which he was raised and lived and coached youth hockey. Good cops can’t be over-valued. Bad ones, well . . .
My problem is that I do not tolerate injustice. When I encounter injustice, it stirs a level of anger in me like few other things will. This was one of those times, and I wanted you nice folks to know that a wrong had been righted.
On Your Behalf,
OFF-TOPIC UPDATE: Oh, shit! I made the Wrecked List! My most sincere gratitude to all of you.