A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of 19 patrons who were detained in a police raid on a gay bar in Atlanta, US.
The raid happened on Thursday September 10th at the Atlanta Eagle after anonymous callers said they had seen drug use and men having sex at the bar.
The lawsuit, filed by Lambda Legal, claims that excessive force was used by officers from the Atlanta Police Department and patrons were subjected to homophobic slurs.
During the raid, people were made to lie on the floor for up to two hours while witnesses reported hearing police make comments such as “This is a lot more fun than raiding niggers with crack” and “I hate gay people”.
No evidence of illegal sex or drug use was found. Eight employees were arrested for not having the correct permits for dancing.
The suit claims that patrons were not allowed to get up despite some lying in broken glass and one having injured his back during service in the Iraq war.
It said that excessive force had been used by officers, including the unnecessary use of handcuffs, and that some patrons had been shoved or kicked to the floor. The suit added that patrons had heard anti-gay slurs.
It said: “These actions were taken without particularised reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe that any individual patron, let alone every person at the establishment, was involved in criminal activity whatsoever.”
Greg Nevins, supervising senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal’s Atlanta office, said: “The illegal activity going on in the Atlanta Eagle that night was committed by the APD.
“If it is APD procedure for elderly men and wounded veterans to be thrown to the floor and harassed simply for being in a bar having a drink after work, then the APD should change its procedures.”
The suit names Atlanta police chief Richard Pennington and 48 officers who were present at the raid.
It seeks damages and alleges that some officers committed crimes of false imprisonment, assault, battery and trespassing.
Earlier this year, a Texas gay bar was raided on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which were hailed as the birth of the gay rights movement.
Three officers from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission were fired after an investigation into the raid on the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth