Atlanta Mayor Kasim wants to hold a videotaped conference with attorneys representing patrons in the Atlanta Eagle the night of the 2009 gay bar raid “so we can stop having this argument” over whether the Atlanta Police Department has implemented changes required in the settlement of the federal lawsuit.
Reed made the pledge at a packed LGBT town hall forum Tuesday night organized to discuss the Eagle raid and other public safety issues. Tuesday’s town hall forum was hosted by the Atlanta LGBT Police Advisory Board and included Reed and Chief George Turner fielding questions from the crowd of some 150 people.
While expected to center around Eagle raid and the fallout, the forum at St. Mark United Methodist Church hit on numerous topics including Occupy Atlanta, LGBT training of police officers, Reed’s stance on gay marriage as well as LGBT homeless youth.
Eagle attorney Dan Grossman asked the mayor directly at last night’s forum to meet with him to discuss constructive ways to end the ongoing fallout of the raid that continues to weigh heavy on many of patrons in the bar that night, as well as many Atlanta LGBT residents.
“I’d like to encourage us to sit down as well as with other people. I think it’s time to make something constructive … Let’s stop beating up each other in court,” Grossman said. “Let’s have lunch.”
“I’m open to that, quickly,” Reed said. “I would be glad to meet with you.”
After Tuesday’s town hall forum, Grossman and Reed shook hands warmly “” a far cry from their previous interactions.
Grossman and Reed have had a contentious relationship since the first Eagle federal civil lawsuit was filed shortly before Reed took office in early 2010.
The two shared a heated exchange at a similar town hall forum in July 2010 in which Grossman accused the mayor of being “disingenuous” for stating he could not accept responsibility for the lawsuit out of concern for what the financial impact would be on the city.
The two also exchanged barbs with each other in the GA Voice when the second Eagle lawsuit was filed with Grossman saying the mayor “should be begging forgiveness from the city and the gay community for ever having defended this case in the first place. And now he is planning to defend their actions again. He truly should be ashamed.”
Reed responded, “Instead of working toward reconciliation, attorney Dan Grossman continually stokes fear and resentment in the LGBT community against the city and the police department.”
The city eventually settled the first Eagle lawsuit for $1.025 million in December 2010 that included mandates to implement police reforms to include training officers on the Fourth Amendment.
There are currently two pending lawsuits against the city from the Eagle raid. The city is denying it did anything wrong in an answer to the second lawsuit filed on behalf of 10 plaintiffs by Grossman and co-counsel Gerry Weber.
Reed also said he would hold a status conference with representatives from the city and the Eagle discussing before a federal judge whether or not the city has complied with all of the police reforms mandated in the December settlement.
He said he would like to have it videotaped and then have the video posted the internet for the public to view “so we can stop having this argument.” Reed said at the town hall forum he would instruct City Attorney Cathy Hampton, who was in attendance last night, to begin setting up today such a conference with Grossman.
Activists target Reed on police homophobia, stance on gay marriage
Queer Justice League member Laura Gentle asked Reed how he could not address the “deep rooted homophobia” that must exist in the department after an investigation into the raid showed at least two officers involved in the Eagle raid held anti-gay beliefs.
Former Sgt. John Brock, fired after two investigations into the raid showed officers did not follow procedures, said he believed among other things that gay people “were very violent.”
“Will you acknowledge the APD has a problem with homophobia?” Gentle asked Reed. She also accused the city of being homophobic if not “immoral” for how it has handled the Eagle raid and lawsuits.
Reed denied this allegation. “The City of Atlanta’s record on how we treat LGBT employees is way ahead of everyone else,” he said.
Paul Schappaugh of Get EQUAL GA, also a member of QJL, wanted to know why Reed did not support gay marriage. Reed has stated publicly he ds not support gay marriage due to personal beliefs, but that he ds believe gay unions should be legally recognized.
Reed pointed to his 11-year history as a Georgia state representative and senator and his support of an employment non-discrimination act, a hate crimes law and battling against those who wanted to prohibit gay people from adopting. He also said he was one of the few people under the Gold Dome who voted against the state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
“I’m not the reason there’s a ban on same-sex marriage in the state of Georgia,” Reed said.
‘Now is the time’ to discuss LGBT homeless youth
Reed said “now is the time” to discuss homelessness and LGBT youth after being questioned about his views on what the city can do to help teens who have no homes and say they cannot find shelter.
Reed also promised to send a representative from his office to a community meeting today to discuss LGBT youth homelessness. The Queer Justice League and the Atlanta chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are holding a town hall meeting today at 7 p.m. at the Rush Center to discuss, “Turned Away: The Truth about Queer Homeless Youth in Atlanta.”
Lorraine Fontana, veteran activist who works with Lambda Legal, said research shows that LGBT youth are more likely to be homeless and asked the mayor what he is doing to address homelessness overall in the city.
Reed pointed out the city recently received a Bloomberg grant to assist with homelessness and he “wholly agreed we need to support LGBT youth that are homeless” and that he needed “help and advice” from local organizations on how to address the issue.
“Now is the right time to have that conversation,” Reed said.
Elected officials attending last night’s forum included State Rep. Simone Bell (D-Atlanta), State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), former Atlanta City Council President Lisa Borders, City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and Atlanta City Council members Alex Wan and Michael Julian Bond.
Josh Noblitt, a minister at Saint Mark and a member of the Atlanta Police LGBT Advisory Board, concluded the town hall forum by asking the victims of the Eagle raid to forgive the police officers who violated their constitutional rights. Noblitt shared his recent experience forgiving the young men who attacked him last year in Piedmont Park.
“I had a pretty profound experience in court with the people who attacked me … and it was able to free me from anger,” Noblitt said.
“I did not get there alone. I just want to ask those who were involved in Eagle raid, those who were victims, to look inside and examine if there’s room for forgiveness of the officers who caused so much pain and trauma, to set yourself free,” he said.
Grossman said after the meeting reconciliation is always good, but it wasn’t fair to ask only the victims to forgive. He said he believed forgiveness could be given if the individual officers in the raid apologized for their actions.
Read a play-by-play of Tuesday’s town hall forum at www.twitter.com/theGaVoice.
Ryan Watkins contributed.
Top photo: Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (by Dyana Bagby)