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|Screen on the Green gay audience target of melee?|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|June 11, 2010 00:00|
The same day the Atlanta police chief finalists met in a town hall forum, the popular “Screen on the Green” movie showing in Piedmont Park ended abruptly after several fights broke out and there were unconfirmed reports of gunfire.
Jesse Rhodes, who is openly gay, said what happened at Screen on the Green on June 3 was an “insult” to the people of Midtown, including its gay residents. He lives at Post Parkside and walked to the park with a group of gay friends. While the fights and rowdy behavior broke out around them as they tried to watch “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” he and his gay friends felt very vulnerable, he said.
“We felt like sitting ducks,” he said. “They were definitely targeting gay people. One of my good friends, who is gay and works at Swinging Richards, got jumped by five people and beat up.”
The friend did not file report of the incident to police.
Rhodes added that when he was walking out of the park he was called “faggot” and other obscenities and said women at the event were also called lesbians.
“I was called a faggot. There were a couple of fights in front of Blake’s [the gay bar on 10th Street] — it was all pretty pathetic,” he said. “I was verbally discriminated against based on my sexual preference.”
Rhodes said he was called the anti-gay slur while walking along 10th Street from Charles Allen toward Piedmont Avenue.
He said the people causing the problems were not from Midtown.
“They were young and definitely looking for trouble,” Rhodes said.
“It went from the people with Chick-fil-A being overwhelmed to females being called lesbians. It was more of an insult to the people of Midtown regardless of who we are,” he said.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted a Newnan man as saying he and his friend were victims of a “hate crime” during the melee, and later clarified that the man felt targeted because he is white and his attackers were black. Josh Hice and his friend were hit while they were in Hice’s open Jeep driving past Piedmont Park.
Sgt. Curtis Davenport, public information officer for the APD, told the Georgia Voice he looked through numerous reports from June 3 and said nothing in the reports stated anything about a hate crime against anyone at the park.
“I have not heard anything about that and nothing is mentioned in any of the reports,” he said.
A call to Officer Patricia Powell, the new LGBT liaison for the APD, was not returned. A follow-up email this week was also not answered.
‘Take Back Screen on the Green’
Davenport said the APD was not providing security for the event. Screen on the Green is sponsored by Peachtree TV in conjunction with the Piedmont Park Conservancy and the sponsors are required to provide security. The sponsors submitted a security plan to the APD for approval, Davenport said.
“We are investigating whether what was approved was actually what was in place,” he said.
APD Interim Chief George Turner said there were 23 off-duty officers providing security for the approximately 10,000 people who showed up to watch the movie.
When the fights became very disruptive, the security company on site asked APD for assistance, Davenport said.
“This was an off-duty event [for the APD]. They [the sponsors] provide security. APD was called in when the event was canceled and we deployed nine or 10 officers and had the park cleared out in 15 minutes,” he said.
Police cannot confirm whether there was gunfire as reported by some attendees. Davenport said the APD did receive reports from the prior week’s Screen on the Green that fireworks were used.
Davenport added that it appeared there were two groups of females and a group of males that were causing the disruptions and fights.
Rhodes, who said he was distressed there was not more of a police presence at the park to provide security, started a Facebook group asking people to “Take Back Screen on the Green.”
“It’s time to stand up as a community and boycott Screen on the Green. This past Thursday’s event was full of hatred, and unlawful people. Midtown is home to a proud, and diversified group of people who already fight social prejudice, we don’t need to invite it into our own backyards,” he states on the page.
The APD public information office could not be reached this week for a follow-up interview to find out if there were any actual incidents reports as a result of Screen on the Green, but the AJC reported June 7 only one was filed. The report was filed by a teen whose purse was stolen.
The June 10 Screen on the Green showing of “Dreamgirls” was postponed due to the June 3 violence. The series will resume with “Dreamgirls” on June 17, according to Peachtree TV.
Top photo: Screen on the Green’s showing of ‘Dream Girls’ in Piedmont Park was postponed from June 10 to June 17 after violence erupted at the June 3 event, which featured ‘Transformers: The Revenge of the Fallen.’ (Photo courtesy Dreamworks)
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