Host of HBO's The Sex Inspectors and author of Meet The Hottie In The Corner.

Stonewall 2009

police raid gay bar Stonewall 2009

How could something like this happen in Martin Luther King’s home town?

The following occured about a mile away from my home in Atlanta, Georgia at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 10, 2009.

Mark Danack was watching the football game at his favorite bar, The Eagle, when he heard somebody yell, “HIT THE GROUND!” He thought a fight had broken out. The lights switched on and up to 30 cops were yelling, screaming and ordering everyone to the ground. The police had raided the bar.

For what?

“Shut the fuck up!” a cop yelled at one of the bar patrons who asked why they were being forced to lay face down on the grubby floors.

An acquaintance saw the police shove an 80 year-old man to the ground because he was moving too slowly.

Why?

“No questions! Do what you’re told or we’ll arrest you!” The officers threatened jail time to anybody asking why they were being held against their will.

The search and seizures began. Everything in everyone’s pockets was taken away.

Why?

“None of your goddamned business! Get back on the floor and shut the hell up!” Driver’s licenses were taken and put through a laptop screening.

What are you looking for?

“I said SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Three paddy wagons were waiting outside.

Nick Koperski was enraged. He knew he had done nothing wrong. Yet there he was, lying on the floor, face down, his pockets emptied. He had it better than some of the others, like Du-wan Ray, one of the bar’s managers. He was handcuffed on the back deck.

Why are you doing this?

“I hate queers,” a cop said. Other officers–some plain-clothed, some uniformed– walked around the bar demanding to know who was in the military, threatening to report them to their commanding officers.

“This is a lot more fun than raiding niggers with crack!” Du-Wayne Ray heard one white officer say this to another; other cops were high-fiving each other.
For almost two hours, Mark Danack, Nick Koperski, and sixty other gay men were forced to lay face down on the bar’s filthy floors. The drivers license screening revealed nothing.

Sixty two men and the cops didn’t find a suspended license, a criminal prior, nothing. Not even a parking ticket.

The search and seizure uncovered nothing. No drugs. Not even a joint.

Finally, the men were ordered to leave but without their cell phones, wallets and other personal belongings.

Not a single man was arrested.
Or given an apology.
Or given a reason for why they were held against their will.
Or how they could get their personal possessions back.

Welcome to Amerika.

Facts and quotes were sourced from my acquaintances who were victimized by the police as well as the city’s gay paper, Southern Voice, its mainstream paper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, its unofficial gay portal, Project Q Atlanta, its progressive paper, Atlanta Progressive News, its alternative paper, Creative Loafing, its PBS station, WABE-fm as well as the four local TV stations: ABC-affiliate WSB News, CBS Affiliate, WGNX News, NBC affiliate WXIA News and FOX affiliate WAGA News. The photo above used for illustration purposes only.

Postscript:
Eight staff members were arrested and put in jail without bond. The charge: Dancing in their underwear without a permit. If it were not for the intervention of two Atlanta City Council candidates who contacted a judge who then set bail, the men would have spent the weekend in jail.

The lawyer retained to defend the bar said:

“The situation is such that they [police] were coming in for the least serious ordinance violation of all time — dancing around in their underwear.

Usually such violations will lead to simple citations to employees of an establishment. But the fact police searched all the customers is a direct violation of constitutional rights.

They had no right to search them, look in their pockets for drugs or detain them. At this stage it seems to me what occurred was a serious constitutional violation to everyone in the place.”

Anatomy of a Southern Sex Panic.

pixel Stonewall 2009

19 Responses to “Stonewall 2009”

  1. Vicky

    This blows my mind. WTF?!

  2. Jorge

    I cannot believe things like this are still taking place at this day and age and in this country nonetheless. I hope each of those dirty cops loses their badges. Such a blatant disregard for civil liberties and a downright display of pure malice – unbelievable.


  3. [...] gay community woke up with a shock last week when they learned that dozens of cops stormed into a tranquil gay bar, forced 62 patrons to lay on the grubby floors face down for an hour, ransacked through their [...]

  4. John

    Mike,

    I’m as upset as anyone about what happened at The Eagle. However, I’m disappointed in your posting because there are at least two points that are factually incorrect. I was there.

    Your post says that “Everything in everyone’s pockets was taken away.” Not true. As far as I could tell, everyone was indeed patted down; but my pockets were not emptied and nothing was seized from me. Did it happen to anyone else? Maybe. I don’t know. But it wasn’t “everyone” and I didn’t witness it happen to anyone that was near me.

    You also posted, “Finally, the men were ordered to leave but without their cell phones, wallets and other personal belongings.” Again, absolutely untrue. I left with nothing less in my pocket than when I entered the establishment.

    A couple of points: First, I think that some members of the Atlanta Police Department were overly aggressive and took far too much pleasure in a largely unjustified raid.

    Second: I’m not saying that you intentionally misrepresented what happened. You were probably fed misinformation. There’s a lot of it going around… which is really my point in this response.

    It infuriates me that some of the people that were present during the raid are grossly exaggerating the facts and resorting to hyperbole. The facts themselves are enough. There is no reason to inflate what happened in hopes that it will draw more attention and support. If nothing else, it will result in the facts of the events being categorized as untruths along with what will eventually be discovered as a lie.

    I’m furious with the APD and equally as disappointed in some of the victims. Come on guys – tell the truth – it’s infuriating enough.

  5. Carlos Christie

    My greatest concern is WHY DOES THIS STUFF STILL GO ON? Stories always get inflated and i agree that the truth of the matter is all that really counts however the fact that this happened at all is disgraceful. Also remember some people are better equiped to deal in situations of intimidation than others and no doubt for some this is a trauma they will carry with them for a long time. ANy idea when was the last time the police raided a straight nudey bar in the Area?

  6. Chad

    This link was posted on Facebook by a friend and I hope the news goes viral so people can see that the issue of hate agaist gay people and honestly all minorities is strong in America.

    One question everyone should be asking is, “Would this ‘Raid’ happen to the local gentlemen’s strip club, Hooter’s, or even the local sporting events where women basically dance around in their underwear?” Perhaps we should take it on ourselves to raid these straight establishments and demand “proof of permit” from the lady dancers who often dance in their underwear as a form of protest and demonstrate just how completely bias the APD was with their actions.

    I hope a massive investigation as to why this rather larger “RAID” was ordered for such a simple ordinance violation. I’m sure it was based on bias and hate, and should be investigated as a hate crime it’s self. This is also a gross misuse of taxpayer resources in a time when checks and balances should always be kept in order. I honestly can’t believe such a thing happened on so many levels.

  7. Adam

    Mike, thanks for reporting this, and letting us all know. I found this by way of the Huffington Post by way of Facebook. To John, thanks for adding needed perspective.

    Between this and the incident in Ft Worth, I wanted to contact my US Senator wondering about the prospects of a federal inquiry, so I tried calling the Atlanta Police Department in order to get the facts straight before I did so. I patiently meandered through the phone menus until I got through to the public affairs department. The moment I asked for the LGBT liaison officer, they responded, “she doesn’t work in this department” and then hung up on me. That’s when I redialed to leave a scathing voicemail in the Chief of Police’s office. I gotta say though, our government officials need to hear from us when these things happen. We need to encourage them to root out bigotry of all kinds in government, and we need to show the APD and police departments everywhere that they can’t get away with this kind of blatant abuse of power.

    -Adam


  8. [...] middle of an unrelenting downpour to hear community leaders voice everyone’s outrage over the police raid of The Eagle, a peaceful gay bar in [...]


  9. [...] What Really Happened the Night of the Raid. [...]


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  17. [...] Stonewall 2009: Police raid gay bar in Atlanta because 6 men 14 Sep 2009. Anatomy of a Southern Sex Panic: The Raid on The Eagle.. “Would this 'Raid' happen to the local gentlemen's strip club, Hooter's, or even the. Atlanta Gay Pride Committee Throws Eagle Raid Victims Under the Bus. Stonewall 2009: Police raid gay bar in Atlanta because 6 men [...]


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