How could something like this happen in Martin Luther King's home town?
The following occurred 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.
"Shut the f**k 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.
"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.
"None of your G-D 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 F**K 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. Ray 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.
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 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."
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