Charlie Stadtlander – an LGBT advocate and Atlanta School Board candidate – was assaulted and robbed on Saturday in Midtown as he took part in a rally and march supporting transgender Atlantans.
As Stadtlander was using his cell phone to broadcast the march on social media, Wilford Hardnett (photo) approached him on a bicycle near the intersection of 10th and Peachtree streets, snatched the phone and tried to flee, according to an Atlanta police incident report. When Stadtlander grabbed Hardnett, the suspect kicked him, acted as if he was going to pull a gun from his waistband and threated to "shoot all the faggots," according to the report.
Stadtlander let Hardnett go when he threatened to shoot him. But another participant in the march – journalist and actor Caleb Spivak – confronted Hardnett when he heard Stadtlander yell for help.
"When I looked up, the person who robbed me stopped right in front of me. He called me a faggot and snatched my phone out of my hand at the same time," Stadtlander told Project Q Atlanta.
"I started screaming that I needed help and this guy stole my phone," he added.
As Spivak confronted Hardnett, the suspect threw Stadtlander's phone on the ground and continued yelling anti-LGBT slurs, Stadtlander said.
"He said he had a Glock and he said he was going to shoot all of us faggots," Stadtlander said.
Hardnett was then able to hop on his bicycle and flee. But a short time later – as Stadtlander told MARTA and Atlanta police officers about the incident – Hardnett passed by him again – this time on the plaza at the MARTA station on 10th Street.
"Out of nowhere, the suspect rode his bike right in front of us. He stared me down, he dropped his bike and called me another gay slur," Stadtlander said.
Stadtlander identified Hardnett to police and he was arrested.
Hardnett, 21, was charged with aggravated assault and armed robbery. He remains in the Fulton County Jail without bond. He is also jailed on a probation warrant from 2014 when he was charged with attempted armed robbery.
Hardnett told police that he grabbed the phone and threw it to the ground when a march participant struck him with a sign, according to the incident report. When he was arrested, Hardnett told police he wanted to kill himself, according to the report.
Stadtlander said Hardnett later apologized to him.
The rally and march on Saturday came in response to the ban on transgender people in the military that President Trump announced on July 26. Stadtlander said the assault left him shaken.
"I felt really safe in the march. I felt like we were all in solidarity. It was in broad daylight. It really, really shattered my sense of security. It was the last thing I was expecting. For him to come back close to the scene and yell gay slurs, that was a little shocking as well," Stadtlander said.
"It makes me realize that the LGBT community is a target. There are people who hate us. You have to always be aware of that," he added.
Stadtlander announced his campaign for the District 3 seat on the Atlanta School Board in mid July.
In 2011, a man assaulted Stadtlander in the bathroom of LA Fitness in Ansley Mall. He later pleaded guilty to public indecency and served 30 days of a 12-month sentence and 100 hours of community service.