Blogger Matt Hennie is the founder and managing editor of Project Q Atlanta. He’s a longtime Atlanta resident who’s worked in journalism since his days as a Purple Paladin at Furman University in the early ‘90s.
Here we go again.
The murder in Piedmont Park Thursday — 15 minutes before a second stabbing a few blocks away in Midtown — was first pitched as a robbery attempt by the Atlanta Police Department. Now, the embattled agency hints in an email to an anti-gay nightlife activist that the homicide might have been the result of gay cruising. Huh?
Like another high-profile crime in Midtown — the beating of a gay man leaving Blake’s in March — the police department’s take on the case is shifting and quickly. But this time, they don’t have the changing accounts of the victim to explain their changing dynamics.
The publicly-known facts of the case seem to undercut their spin — if the victim was out cruising for sex, how does that mesh with a second stabbing 15 minutes later near 6th and Juniper Streets? Some crazed lunatic stabbing guys looking for play late at night? Let’s hope not, but that’s where the police seem to be pointing us.
The police explanation, first reported by Southern Voice and picked up today by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, almost smells of blaming the victim. Put another way, it hints at the notion of, well, this dude was in the park after hours and shit happens. Heard that one before? How about this: She was wearing a short skirt and tight blouse, so she was looking to get raped.
But I’ve got a beef with a police commander sending emails about the case to Peggy Denby, a cranky Not In My Backyard activist. She was behind the fight to close Backstreet and wants to run all gay nightlife establishments out of Midtown and away from her high-priced condo that was, incidentally, built after the gay clubs she despises were already in place.
An email sent by Maj. Khirus Williams, head of the police department’s Zone 5, at 1:10 p.m. offered more details.
“This morning’s homicide, at Piedmont Park, is ‘likely’ to be ‘male-hustling’ related,” Williams wrote in an email to Midtown activist Peggy Denby. “A person found with blood stains and injuries this morning, in Midtown, is being interviewed by our Homicide Unit.
“This person has claimed to have been inside of the park but has not made any confessions,” Williams continued in the email, which was obtained by Southern Voice. “The investigation continues. Our personnel are tasked with park checks throughout the night, to address ‘anyone’ being inside the park, after dark. We will continue the efforts and initiate arrests when there are violations.”
When it comes to Piedmont Park, the police department has little credibility with the city’s gay population. It is, after all, the same department that harassed and arrested six gay men who walked through the park after hours on their way home from a bar.
No suspects have been named in the attacks and police haven’t yet linked the incidents from Thursday morning. As the investigation continues, let’s hope they focus more on finding justice for the murder victim and less on blaming him and dismissing the homicide as simply “male-hustling related.”
In a sidebar to the case, the normally reserved Georgia Log Cabin Republicans seemed to step off a cliff late Thursday. The group issued a statement calling on Mayor Shirley Franklin, whose term ends this year, to resign.
The group called on Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican, and the Georgia National Guard to take control of the city’s “crime mayhem” and reminded LGBT residents of their right to bear arms and use deadly force to protect themselves.
The full statement, according to Southern Voice:
“It has become obvious that Mayor Shirley Franklin is incompetent to fulfill her duty and obligation to protect the citizens of Atlanta from violence. The latest rash of murders, robberies, hate crimes, and lawlessness are a direct result of her failure to provide proper protection by an effective police force. Mayor Franklin has recklessly cut the hours of our police force, which has left our citizens in grave danger, and now it’s time for her to cut her own hours permanently, we just can’t afford to wait until a new election and mayor, she must go now.”
“We are also urging Governor Sonny Perdue to take control of the situation, and requesting that he order in the Georgia National Guard or Georgia State Patrol into Atlanta to help stabilize the current crime mayhem in the city.”
“The Georgia Log Cabin Republicans are avid supporters of the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution, and want to remind our fellow citizens that our state currently lacks any effective Hate Crimes law to detour crimes against LGBT Georgians. However, the Georgia Legislature passed SB396 several years ago that allows all citizens to legally defend themselves with deadly force when necessary, without an obligation to retreat when attacked. Until our city is safe again, we recommend that Atlanta’s LGBT citizens find a way in which they are comfortable, to defend themselves, loved ones, and families from the latest crime wave out of control.”