What happened at the Atlanta Eagle was not about a dancing permit nor is it simply a gay rights issue, said Laura Gentle as she took the podium Tuesday to speak to members of the Atlanta City Council’s Public Safety Committee.
“The civil liberties of 62 patrons were broken,” said Gentle, who is straight. “They [the APD] have failed to make the connection from what led to the raid to what those were arrested for. We need answers as a community.”
Gentle and about 20 other gay activists and allies went to the committee meeting to voice their concerns about the alleged mistreatment of employees and patrons at the Atlanta Eagle when it was raided by the Atlanta Police Department Sept. 10. Eight employees were arrested for charges ranging from dancing without a permit for adult entertainment to not having the license to operate an adult club.
A rally was held Sunday in the parking lot of the Eagle, attracting hundreds of people. Gentle, who helped organize that rally, has helped plan another rally for Saturday at noon at City Hall on Mitchell Street.
Six other clubs raided similarly in recent months, police say
On hand for the Tuesday meeting was APD Deputy Chief Carlos Banda who discussed what happened and answered questions from committee members about the controversial police raid. He spoke at the start of the meeting, but remained for the full meeting to listen to the citizen complaints.
He informed the committee the APD opens up investigations traditionally after it receives complaints of alleged illegal activity — either from citizen complaints, Crime Stoppers or even after officers may hear about suspicious activity. That’s what happened in this case, Banda said.
Two complaints were made and Banda clarified that although one complaint was addressed to Mayor Shirley Franklin, she had nothing to do with it.
“It did not come from the mayor’s office,” he said.
The second complaint was from a Crime Stoppers tip. According to the police records provided to the media, the tip to City Hall was made May 19 and the Crime Stoppers tip was made July 1. Police reports show undercover officers visited the Atlanta Eagle on May 21 and June 11.
When such complaints are received, the APD has to verify illegal activity is taking place and in the Atlanta Eagle case, that meant an undercover operation, Banda said.
“In most cases, we go in three times before we do anything,” he said.
Those clubs were exotic dancing clubs Pleasers on Cleveland Avenue, Goldrush on Metropolitan Parkway, Foxy Lady on Moreland Avenue, Candy Shop on Empire Boulevard and the Playground, which has no listed address on the internet. The Masquerade, a popular music and dance venue located on North Avenue, was also raided. He said after his public comments that he was unsure how investigations into these businesses were made or what charges those arrested faced.
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