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|Atlanta City Council member asks LGBT community to delay accusing APD of abuse until facts gathered|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|January 24, 2012 09:41|
Atlanta City Council member Alex Wan said at Monday's Atlanta Police LGBT Advisory Board meeting that as a community, LGBT people should not jump to a snap judgment about the Atlanta Police Department until all facts are gathered about arrests made at Blake's on the Park on Friday night.
Wan, the sole openly gay member of the council, represents District 6, including Blake's and Midtown. He said Monday that he became involved in the now open investigation into police conduct at the gay Midtown bar on Jan. 20 after police were called to the scene to help with a fight that broke out between patrons and staff.
"Within a half hour … I got responses from both the major [Major Chris Leighty, Zone 5 commander that includes Blake's] and from the city attorney," he said.
"I have to say everything that happened after I became engaged in the situation is exactly what I would have expected to happen with an accusation or situation like this," he said.
Wan was the one who told police accusations were being made.
"The LGBT liaisons were contacted. And within two hours I actually got an email from the Office of Professional Standards who had opened the investigation and were ready to gather additional evidence," Wan said.
Wan praised the APD's prompt response to the situation and its eagerness to get more facts. He also asked the LGBT community to take a deep breath before making assumptions about the APD.
"I really want to caution our community not to jump to quick conclusions and stir up everybody until we have all the information," he said. "Just as we expect the police to act responsibly toward our community, we have to in turn act responsibly toward them as well."
The Eagle case continues to haunt the Atlanta LGBT community, Wan acknowledged, but unfounded allegations against the police department could harm any efforts to heal past wounds.
Major Leighty commended members of the LGBT community who have come forward to speak out on behalf of the APD officers who responded to Blake's on Jan. 20, saying the support will help strengthen the community's relationship with APD.
"It's been a long road since the Eagle case. We're still not there yet," Wan said. "Something like this, if unfounded, could end up being very, very destructive to everybody's efforts to strengthen those relationships."
Atlanta police raided the Eagle, a gay bar on Ponce De Leon Avenue, in September 2009. Several employees were arrested on allegations of permit violations and all patrons were forced to the floor of the bar, where they remained while police searched them and ran background checks on their identification. Several patrons reported being treated roughly and subjected to anti-gay slurs during the raid.
No patrons were arrested. All of the employees arrested either were found not guilty or had their charges dismissed, except for one who did not appear in court. A group of patrons sued the city in federal court, claiming their civil rights were violated. The city agreed in 2010 to settle the lawsuit for $1.025 million; other lawsuits stemming from the raid continue.
Top photo: Atlanta City Council District 6 representative Alex Wan. (by Dyana Bagby)
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