Lambda Legal Files Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit Against City of Atlanta on Behalf of Owner and Patrons of the Atlanta Eagle Bar
(Atlanta, Georgia November 24, 2009) — In the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia today, Lambda Legal and co–counsel filed a lawsuit against the city of Atlanta, the chief of police and 48 individual officers of the Atlanta Police Department (APD) on behalf of 19 individuals who, on September 10 at the Atlanta Eagle gay bar, were forcibly searched and detained.
"The illegal activity going on in the Atlanta Eagle that night was committed by the APD," said Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. "If it is APD procedure for elderly men and wounded veterans to be thrown to the floor and harassed simply for being in a bar having a drink after work, then the APD should change its procedures."
Dan Grossman, co–counsel in the case, has been working with victims of the raid since that night. "I’ve listened to dozens of stories from patrons who were mistreated by police at the Atlanta Eagle that night," said Grossman. "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."
On September 10, the Atlanta Police Department dispatched dozens of officers to the Atlanta Eagle, including its "Red Dog Unit" dressed in SWAT team gear, but inside the bar the APD found no public sex, no drugs or illegal weapons. During the raid, patrons of the bar were forced to lie facedown on the floor while background checks were run on everyone. Eagle bar patrons heard antigay slurs and were forced to lie in spilled beer and broken glass. One patron was forced to lie on the floor even though he had injured his back in the Iraq War. Not a single patron was charged with any crime.
"The Atlanta Eagle is one of my favorite bars. I usually go there to drink a beer, unwind, and watch a football game after rehearsing with the Gay Men's Chorus," said Mark Danak, a Lambda Legal client named in the case. "But that Thursday night was a very serious experience that I will never forget."
The lawsuit challenges the APD officers' actions, claiming violations of the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions and Georgia state law.
Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office is handling the case for Lambda Legal. He is joined by Dan Grossman, Law Office of Daniel J. Grossman, and Gerry Weber, Senior Staff Counsel at the Southern Center for Human Rights.
The case is Calhoun v. Pennington.
Contact: Jonathan Adams 212-809-8585 ext 267; [email protected]
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.