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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 10, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 50
City of Atlanta settles in Eagle Case
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City of Atlanta settles in Eagle Case

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

More than a year after the events in question, 19 patrons of the Atlanta Eagle, an Atlanta Gay bar, were awarded a settlement by a federal judge in response to the raid conducted by the Atlanta Police Department in September of 2009.

The raid happened on September 10, 2009, during the Eagle's 'Underwear Night' promotion.

'We have to let everyone know the truth about what happened, so we can make sure we all have equal rights,' said Richard Ramey, co-owner of the Eagle, after the initial charges were filed against the Atlanta Police Department (APD).

'We were having our underwear party, and at approximately 11 p.m. or so, the police came in,' Ramey told SGN in an interview just after the incident.

Ramey estimated that 30 SWAT 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.'

In November 2009, Lambda Legal and co-counsel filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Atlanta, the Atlanta Police Department chief of police, and 48 APD officers on behalf of the 19 patrons who were present during the September 10 raid.

'They were here for about two and a half hours,' said Ramey. The clients of Lambda Legal claimed that they were forced to lay in spilled beer and broken glass. No search warrant was served and no charges were filed against any of the patrons. However, eight staff members were arrested and charged for not having the proper permit to work in an 'adult entertainment facility' - which, according to Ramey, the Atlanta Eagle does not qualify as.

According to Lambda's initial press release, the lawsuit challenged the APD officers' actions, claiming violations of the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions and Georgia state law.

The actual amount of the settlement is yet to be specified because the Atlanta city council must approve the settlement.

In addition to the monetary settlement, the city of Atlanta will 'oversee reforms within the police department' - a victory for the plaintiffs, based on their stated goal when the suit was initially filed.

'It's unfortunate we need a federal judge to make our police department follow the law,' said the plaintiff's attorney Dan Grossman. 'Since [police] don't think they did something wrong, they're going to do it again.'

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