Atlanta Eagle’s $1 million settlement stands in sharp contrast to Rainbow Lounge outcome

Stephen V. Sprinkle  |  Unfinished Lives

The Atlanta City Council has voted 14-0 to award the Atlanta Eagle Bar $1 million in response to a federal lawsuit filed by a private attorney on behalf of 19 clients unjustly arrested in a botched police raid last September, according to a report by WTVM News 9 and the Associated Press.

The night of Sept. 10, 2009, four dozen police crashed the Underwear Night special event at the Atlanta Eagle, slamming patrons to the floor, using homophobic slurs, and arresting and detaining 62 people. Police targeted the gay bar on the pretext of illicit sex and drugs, allegations that were never proven.

The owner of the Eagle, Richard Ramey, went immediately on the offensive against the raid, saying to The Atlanta Journal Constitution on Sept. 12, 2009, ”Our problem is with the way our customers were treated.”

Nick Koperski, a bar patron present at the time of the raid, said in the same article: “I’m thinking, this is Stonewall. It’s like I stepped into the wrong decade.”

The Atlanta Police Department refused to cooperate with an investigation by the Atlanta Citizens Council. Charges brought against employees and patrons either failed to win convictions, collapsed for lack of evidence, or were otherwise dismissed, according to a report by EDGE.

Last March eight employees of the bar were found not guilty of trumped up charges by the Atlanta Police Department in a ruling handed down in Municipal Court.

Investigations into the raid found that the Atlanta Police Department did not have a warrant to raid the bar on the night in question. Mandatory revisions to police procedures will be carried out in response to the settlement.

The vindication of the Atlanta Eagle stands in sharp contrast to the outcome of the Fort Worth Police Department’s infamous raid on the Rainbow Lounge just months before the Atlanta debacle. Like the Georgia raid, all charges against patrons arrested at the popular Fort Worth gay bar have been dropped without comment from the city.

Unlike the Atlanta outcome, however, the Fort Worth Police Department has never issued an apology or admitted any wrongdoing in the illicit raid on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

This has been in spite of the public action disciplining officers of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) for their part in the raid, and a formal apology issued by the executive of the TABC. Factors contributing to the non-resolution of the Fort Worth police raid may include a less-than-robust defense of bar patrons by the Rainbow Lounge ownership at the time of the bust, and the less aggressive approach Fort Worth gay leaders employed to bring the city and the police department to account.

Justice for Atlanta, but how about for Fort Worth? We guess the mayor of Fort Worth has more control over the courts, the press, and the gay establishment in North Texas than the mayor of Atlanta. A good thing? You be the judge.

—  admin

World AIDS Day briefs

CURE hosting Quilt panels

The Collin County group Community Unity Respect Education will present about a dozen panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt in Plano Nov. 29 – Dec. 1. The quilt panels will be displayed at Event1013, 1013 E. 15th St. in Plano on Monday and Tuesday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The venue is in downtown Plano and valet parking will be available. Volunteers will discuss the quilt project and tell the stories of some of the people whose panels are displayed. Among the panels is one honoring Resource Center Dallas’ original executive director, John Thomas.

At the event, CURE President Rosemary Odom will announce plans for a large display of panels next year at the Dallas Convention Center to mark the 30th anniversary of when the disease was named AIDS.

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World AIDS Day events at AOC

AIDS Outreach Center will participate in two World AIDS Day events.

At Tarrant County College SE Campus in Arlington, free HIV testing will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. In addition, the school will present panels, speakers and information.

AOC will also participate in the Minority Leadership Citizens Council meeting at noon at Community Christian Church Annex, 1800 E. Vickery Blvd. in Fort Worth. Outreach Center staff member John Reed will lead a discussion and offer facts figures and trends. A panel of HIV positive people will tell their stories and explain what it is like living with HIV.

That meeting will be recorded and broadcast on the city of Fort Worth cable channel. It will be repeated throughout the week.

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Sprinkles honors World AIDS Day

Sprinkles Cupcakes will do its first World AIDS Day promotion from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Dec. 1, with 100 percent of the proceeds from the red ribbon red velvet cupcakes sold in all seven stores across the country donated to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. The Dallas store is in Preston Center.

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AIN plans World AIDS Day event

Clients and staff of AIDS Interfaith Network will offer a program of remembrance, music, and celebration in the Daire Center at 11 a.m. Staff and volunteers will serve the clients lunch. After lunch, AIN will hold a candlelight memorial in their lobby.

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World AIDS Day in Denton

In Denton, a World AIDS Day commemoration will be held on the square from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The event includes a candlelight vigil, tree dedication, poetry reading, speakers, information tables and free hot chocolate.

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P.R.I.S.M. marks World AIDS Day

To commemorate World AIDS Day on Wednesday, Dec. 1,  P.R.I.S.M. (Promoting Respect In Sexual Minorities), the gay-straight alliance for Navarro College in Corsicana, will hold activities intended to help build awareness of HIV/AIDS in the community. Dana Kennedy Hartney, case manager for Ellis and Navarro counties with Dallas-based AIDS Arms Inc., will be the guest speaker for the event set for 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Hartney will speak on the topic, “Why everyone is affected by HIV/AIDS.”

The program will be held in the Gooch Student Center, Arrowhead Room, Navarro College, 3200 W. 7th Ave. in Corsicana. Refreshments will be provided. AIDS Arms will also provide free HIV testing Thursday, Dec. 2, from noon to 4 p.m. in the Gooch Student Center. The testing is open to the public and will include an information  table and people to answer questions.

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RCD  dedicating dental chair

On World AIDS Day, Resource Center Dallas will dedicate its new dental chair at Nelson Tebedo Clinic at 4 p.m.

RCD spokesman Rafael McDonnell said the chair was purchased with Ryan White funds and replaces a chair that has been at the clinic since 1992. Dental care has become one of the major programs of the Nelson Tebedo Clinic. The clinic serves 65 patients every week.

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More World AIDS Day events

On Dec. 1, from 6 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., Parkland hospital presents an education and a consumer fair for World AIDS Day at the Dallas Marriott City Center, 650 N. Pearl St. All of the Ryan White agencies in Dallas will have booths.

Dr. Kevin Murphy is the keynote speaker and will be available to answer questions. He is responsible for formulating the curriculum in AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases at the Dallas County Health Department and organized the early surveillance of AIDS in Dallas.

The event is free and open to the public. Light snacks and refreshments will be provided. Parking in the Plaza of the Americas parking lot will be free. The entrance is on San Jacinto Street. The Marriott is adjacent to the Pearl Street DART station.

In Fort Worth, AIDS service providers are participating in a carnival and health fair at the Public Health Department, 1101 S. Main St., from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. All of the Ryan White service providers will be present. Food, games, gift card raffles and free HIV testing will be offered.

A memorial services will be conducted by The Revs. Carol West and Curtis Smith at 5 p.m.

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• FREE HIV TESTING

Free AIDS testing will be available at the following locations on World AIDS Day:

• AIDS Outreach Center, 400 N. Beach St., Fort Worth. 817-335-1994

• Tarrant County Public Health Department, 1101 S. Main St., Fort Worth. 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. 817-321-4700.

• Nelson Tebedo Clinic, 4012 Cedar Springs Road, 214-528-2336. Dec. 1 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Appointments requested but can see some walk-ins. Dec. 3 all day. No appointments necessary. Free syphilis testing also.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens