Add an­other in­ci­dent to the list

GA Voice - - Front Page -

Septem­ber 15, 2017

psaun­ders@the­gavoice.com “It would be one thing if that were the only trou­bling in­ci­dent to oc­cur be­tween APD and the LGBT com­mu­nity since the no­to­ri­ous, un­con­sti­tu­tional raid on the At­lanta Ea­gle in Novem­ber 2009, which later led to the city set­tling with the bar’s pa­trons for $1 mil­lion. But it’s not.”

The At­lanta Po­lice Depart­ment has a tough job to do. That needs to be said first and fore­most. And it’s an en­cour­ag­ing sign for the LGBT com­mu­nity when a les­bian is ap­pointed to the depart­ment’s high­est post, as hap­pened with Chief Erika Shields last De­cem­ber. It’s also en­cour­ag­ing when LGBT folks fill other high-rank­ing po­si­tions on the force, as Ma­jor Darin Schier­baum does, or when Mayor Kasim Reed ap­points a trans­gen­der woman to the At­lanta Cit­i­zen Review Board, as hap­pened for Tracee McDaniel last Au­gust.

That’s why it’s so frus­trat­ing to hear of yet an­other in­ci­dent in­volv­ing the At­lanta po­lice that neg­a­tively im­pacted the LGBT com­mu­nity, and es­pe­cially for that in­ci­dent to hap­pen dur­ing Black Gay Pride.

To re­cap, At­lanta po­lice shut down Blake’s on the Park, G’s Mid­town, 10th & Pied­mont and TEN At­lanta two hours be­fore clos­ing time in the early morn­ing hours of Sept. 4, de­spite one bar owner re­port­edly show­ing the morn­ing watch com­man­der on the scene a copy of the or­di­nance al­low­ing them to stay open till 2:30 a.m. due to it be­ing La­bor Day week­end. The depart­ment claimed it was a mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion, apol­o­gized and Chief Shields re­as­signed that watch com­man­der (who is also gay) to an­other zone.

It would be one thing if that were the only trou­bling in­ci­dent to oc­cur be­tween APD and the LGBT com­mu­nity since the no­to­ri­ous, un­con­sti­tu­tional raid on the At­lanta Ea­gle in Novem­ber 2009, which later led to the city set­tling with the bar’s pa­trons for $1 mil­lion. But it’s not.

In May 2015, a fed­eral judge found the city in con­tempt of court and im­posed nu­mer­ous sanc­tions for the city’s fail­ure to prop­erly train po­lice of­fi­cers as man­dated in that set­tle­ment. And those in­frac­tions wouldn’t have come to light if it weren’t for at­tor­neys for the Ea­gle bring­ing it to the court’s at­ten­tion.

Then, just three months later, it was re­vealed that At­lanta po­lice train­ing ma­te­ri­als con­tained anti-LGBT les­sons, in­clud­ing teach­ing re­cruits that con­sen­sual sodomy is “un­nat­u­ral,” il­le­gal and com­pa­ra­ble to bes­tial­ity; chicken hawks are pe­dophiles and in­clud­ing out­dated terms for trans­gen­der peo­ple. The depart­ment re­moved the of­fen­sive ma­te­ri­als and apol­o­gized.

And now we have the early bar clo­sures, dur­ing the sec­ond big­gest week­end for the city’s LGBT com­mu­nity, and dur­ing the largest Black Gay Pride cel­e­bra­tion in the coun­try – which means that scene was likely the fi­nal im­pres­sion that LGBT vis­i­tors to the city got be­fore they trav­eled home later that Mon­day.

I won’t claim to have the an­swers to this is­sue, as there is enough go­ing on right now against LGBT folks and other marginal­ized groups in this coun­try with­out hav­ing to worry about the in­ten­tions of our lo­cal po­lice force. But af­ter lis­ten­ing to the com­mu­nity’s re­ac­tion to yet an­other in­ci­dent that re­quired an apol­ogy, I just know it has to stop. Con­fi­dence in our var­i­ous in­sti­tu­tions is per­ilously low right now, and the last thing we need is some­thing else to hap­pen to add an­other in­sti­tu­tion to that list, or chip away even fur­ther at it.

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