Town hall meeting with mayor, police chief moved over conflict with Jewish holiday

Police LGBT board reschedules forum

Nov. 1 is the new date for a town hall forum hosted by the Atlanta Police LGBT Advisory Board with Mayor Kasim Reed and Atlanta Police Chief George Turner. The meeting will take place from 7-8:30 p.m. at Saint Mark United Methodist Church.

Originally scheduled for Sept. 28, the meeting was moved after leaders of Congregation Bet Haverim, Atlanta’s gay-founded Reconstructionist synagogue, objected that it conflicted with the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which begins that night.

The letter, signed by Congregation Bet Haverim President Jeri L. Kagel and Rabbi Joshua Lesser, asked that the “problematic” meeting date be rescheduled out of “communal respect.” It was addressed to the Atlanta Police LGBT Advisory Committee and copied to the mayor’s office.

The public forum is a project of the mayor and the advisory board, a citizen panel founded in the wake of the botched 2009 police raid on the Atlanta Eagle gay bar.

“There are Rosh Hashanah services in synagogues of all denominations across Atlanta and it is one of the few times during the year when Jews of all degrees of observance attend services,” the letter stated. “If the meeting remains on this date our congregants, other LGBT Jews and straight allies, will not have the opportunity to hear two of our city’s leaders address important issues about police interaction within the LGBT community.”

When the meeting was announced, Advisory Board Chair Glen Paul Freedman said the group approved the Sept. 28 date because members did not want to wait for available space on the mayor’s schedule in October.

“We offered a lot of dates and were trying to juggle dates between board members and the mayor’s schedule and community events. There are a lot of things going on at this time of year,” said Freedman, who is Jewish.

“Our question was do we want to wait until October? But with so much going on with Atlanta Pride and the AIDS Walk, we felt it was really important to have the town hall as soon as possible,” he said.

In an email today announcing the new date, Freedman said the date “needed to be changed.”

“We do look forward to the entire community attending the town hall to hear presentations from the Mayor and Police Chief and from the public to ask questions,” he said.

The meeting is planned to cover general community and public safety concerns, as well as ongoing controversy over the Eagle raid. Patrons in the gay bar during the raid sued the city in federal court and won a $1.025 million settlement in December. Fallout from the raid continues after two investigations released in June found that numerous police officers lied or destroyed evidence related to police conduct during the raid.

At the Tuesday, Aug. 30, Atlanta Public Safety Committee meeting, City Council member Alex Wan was set to read a letter the police LGBT Advisory Board sent to the mayor and police chief asking certain questions about the 2009 Eagle raid be answered, Freedman added.

Board member resigns

Molly Simmons resigned from the Atlanta Police LGBT Advisory on Saturday. Simmons, who also serves as the national co-chair for the Human Rights Campaign Board of Governors, was appointed to the board last year when Mayor Reed announced he would resurrect the panel to serve as a conduit between LGBT Atlantans and the police department.

Simmons notified Freedman in a letter that work requirements would keep her from fulfilling her duties on the board.

The process for replacing Simmons on the nine-member board is for those interested to submit applications to the board and board members will review the applications and make the selection themselves, Freedman said.

Simmons’ resignation falls on the heels of a sometimes heated meeting of the board with members of the public on Aug. 22, as well as the announcement on Saturday that Joe Solmonese, president of the national Human Rights Campaign, will step down by March.