by James Whitely -
SGN Contributing Writer
On November 24, Lambda Legal and co-counsel filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Atlanta, the Atlanta Police Department (APD) chief of police, and 48 APD officers on behalf of 19 Atlanta Eagle patrons who were present during the September 10 raid on the Eagle, an Atlanta Gay bar.
The lawsuit challenges the APD officers' actions, claiming violations of the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions and Georgia state law, according to Lambda's press release.
On September 10 at approximately 11:30 p.m., the APD raided the Atlanta leather bar during the Eagle's "Underwear Night."
In an interview with SGN just after the incident, Richard Ramey, co-owner of the Atlanta Eagle, said, "We were having our underwear party, at approximately around 11 p.m. or so the police came in." Ramey estimated that 30 Special Weapons and Tactics officers were present from the APD's "Red Dog Unit," a drug unit which, according to their website, "provides aggressive police presence in areas that have a high incidence of street drug sales, use, and drug related crimes."
"They were here for about two and one-half hours," said Ramey. Clients of Lambda Legal are claiming that they were forced to lay in spilled beer and broken glass.
Patrons were reportedly told to "shut the fuck up," not to ask questions, and that they didn't have any rights, Ramey told SGN.
"Most, but not all, of the officers were incredibly derogatory and insulting whether they found evidence of drugs or not," claimed one patron.
By the end of the night, eight staff members had been arrested and charged for not having the proper permit to work in an "adult entertainment facility," which the Atlanta Eagle has never claimed to be. "We're a nightclub and a bar," said Ramey.
However, not a single patron was charged with any crime.
"I've listened to dozens of stories from patrons who were mistreated by police at the Atlanta Eagle that night," said Dan Grossman, co-counsel in the case. "The Atlanta Police Department is not above the law. They do not get to search and detain people who are not suspected of any crime."
The case, Calhoun v. Pennington, is being handled by Greg Nevins, supervising senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office, Dan Grossman from Law Office of Daniel J. Grossman, and Gerry Weber, senior staff counsel at the Southern Center for Human Rights.
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of Lesbians, Gay men, Bisexuals, Transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.
"We have to let everyone know the truth about what happened, so we can make sure we all have equal rights," said Ramey.
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