ATLANTA (CN) – Patrons of a gay bar are squaring off against Atlanta police officers for raiding the club without warrants. Twenty patrons of the Atlanta Eagle say the officers pretended to be common customers when they arrived on Sept. 10, then without showing badges or identifying themselves as police “began screaming at patrons and employees to ‘hit the floor’ and get down on the ground.”
More officers, dressed in black, paramilitary-style uniforms not recognizable as police uniforms, then forced their way into the club, according to the federal complaint.
The officers shoved some customers to the ground and pressed their boots into their backs, according to the complaint.
Some plaintiffs say they were made to lie on the floor in spilled beer and broken glass and were forced to stay there long after they had been searched and determined unarmed.
Others say officers kicked them while they lay on the floor.
Officers made anti-gay slurs and seized driver’s licenses and other ID documents “without particularized reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe that any individual patron, let alone every person at the establishment, was involved in any criminal activity whatsoever,” according to the complaint.
By the end of the raid, every patron of the Eagle and of Rawhide Leather, a retail store in the same building, was detained, searched and seized, but not a single one was charged with a crime, the plaintiffs say.
However, charges were filed for violations of the Atlanta City Code, alleging unlicensed adult entertainment: four dancers were seen “wearing underwear” and “dancing.”
The plaintiffs seek damages for property damage, physical pain and injury, mental anguish and emotional duress. Defendants include Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington, the City of Atlanta, Officers B.E. Bridges, Marlon O. Noble, J.G. Watkins and Doe officers.The plaintiffs are represented by Gregory R. Nevins of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.