The Atlanta City Council voted Monday to send a resolution apologizing to the patrons and employees of the Eagle over the bar’s September raid to a committee for further study.
The resolution from Council member Michael Julian Bond (top photo) also asks the Atlanta Municipal Court to consider dropping the criminal charges against the Eagle 8, the group of eight dancers and bar employees who were arrested by the Atlanta Police Department during the Sept. 10 raid. The men were arraigned Nov. 3 and face trial on the charges in early February.
Bond introduced the legislation during the council’s first meeting of the year, coming just a few hours after Mayor Kasim Reed and other elected officials were sworn into office. Bond pushed for approval of the measure Monday, but the council instead voted 13-2 to refer it to its Public Safety & Legal Administration Committee. City attorneys at the meeting advised council members that the city faces a lawsuit over the raid.
Alex Wan, who took office Monday as the council’s only openly gay member, says he was not consulted before the resolution was introduced. Wan represents District 6, which includes the Eagle. He voted to send the resolution to committee.
“I am following this very closely and want to make sure appropriate actions are taken as the investigation is completed and the legal case ends,” Wan said Tuesday. “I am keenly aware of it, but I do think it was premature to ask for an apology from the City Council and to have the charges dropped. That may be the right outcome, but it wasn’t something we could act on yesterday.”
The resolution invokes the words of Martin Luther King Jr., and states “injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere.” It also urges the council to “respond to the grievances of any and all of our citizens.”
WHEREAS, it is imperative that all members of Atlanta’s varied communities – be they African-American, Hispanic, LGBT, youth or senior citizens – feel that their freedoms are respected; and
WHEREAS, the City Council requests also that as the Court reviews the facts o this case that it contemplates dropping charges brought against eight employees;
NOW THEREFORE, THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF ATLANTA, GEORGIA HEREBY RESOLVES and offers an apology to the patrons and employees of the Atlanta Eagle Bar for the indignities which they experienced as a result of the September 10, 2009 police raid.
Bond could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning. The Atlanta Progressive News first reported about the measure Monday.
Two days after the raid, Wan and Reed issued statements calling for a thorough investigation into the police action. Several other political candidates also issued statements about the raid in the days after it took place.
On Nov. 24, 19 people detained during the raid filed a federal lawsuit against the city, its police chief and four-dozen officers claiming violations of federal and state laws. The civil rights complaint seeks a judicial order to change the Atlanta Police Department’s procedures concerning raids and unspecified monetary damages to compensate patrons for false imprisonment, assault, battery and trespass. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include patrons who were searched and detained during the raid, though only one of the eight employees and dancers who were arrested.
“The city should apologize,” Grossman said. “If the city had admitted wrongdoing and apologized for it, it would have been the cheapest, easiest and most just thing the city could have done. We were begging for an apology. This lawsuit is of their own making.”
Council member Felicia Moore, who joined colleague Joyce Sheperd in voting against sending the resolution to committee, said Tuesday that her objections were based both on procedural concerns and not having enough information about the case. The resolution was rushed to the council, she said, and they didn’t have time to review it before voting.
“I didn’t have enough information,” Moore said. “I have to be fair to both sides to make a decision like that on the floor. I don’t think the council should be in that position or making those kinds of decisions, particularly on the spot at the end of the first council meeting of the year.”
Moore said the resolution should be vetted by an independent panel, such as the Atlanta Citizen Review Board, that can make a recommendation to the council after reviewing the facts of the case.
“To say that you are sorry about something, you need to know the facts. Otherwise, you are just talking. I would certainly like to have known more about the details, other than what I’ve read and heard from members of the public and the bar itself,” Moore said.
The raid resulted in eight arrests, three protests, calls from elected officials and political candidates for an investigation into police tactics, a public forum with police and LGBT activists and a public flap over grand marshals for the Pride parade in November.