Atlanta mayoral candidate Cathy Woolard – the former Atlanta City Council president and first openly LGBT elected official in Georgia – is expressing doubts about the Atlanta Police Department’s claim that the early closure of four gay bars during Black Gay Pride was a “miscommunication.”

Woolard issued a statement Tuesday afternoon following media reports about the early Monday morning incident.

“I was deeply disturbed to learn that Atlanta Police Department officers chose to force several gay bars to close nearly two hours early on Labor Day as people celebrated Black Gay Pride weekend,” Woolard said. “It is clear that the officers failed to exercise sound judgement by choosing to ignore the city ordinance extending the allowable hours of operation on Labor Day and dismissed the objections of business owners who carried physical copies of the ordinance in their hand.”

Atlanta police forced TEN, Blake’s on the Park, 10th and Piedmont and G’s Midtown were to end events, despite having permits that allowed them to operate past normal closing hours. At least one event was hosted as part of Black Gay Pride. Carlos Campos, an APD spokesperson, said in a statement that it was an “honest mistake based on a communication failure,” but Woolard expressed doubts about that.

“Given the fact that no other bars were shut down in this way, it is difficult not to interpret the action as discriminatory against the LGBTQ community,” Woolard continued in her statement. “That this incident took place during Atlanta’s 21st annual Black Gay Pride, an event that is extremely significant for our city, only compounds the problematic nature of the decision.”

Campos said that openly gay APD Zone 5 commander Maj. Darin Schierbaum will meet with the business owners affected to apologize in person.

Woolard’s full statement plus a Georgia Voice reader poll below:

I was deeply disturbed to learn that Atlanta Police Department officers chose to force several gay bars to close nearly two hours early on Labor Day as people celebrated Black Gay Pride weekend. It is clear that the officers failed to exercise sound judgement by choosing to ignore the city ordinance extending the allowable hours of operation on Labor Day and dismissed the objections of business owners who carried physical copies of the ordinance in their hand.

Given the fact that no other bars were shut down in this way, it is difficult not to interpret the action as discriminatory against the LGBTQ community. That this incident took place during Atlanta’s 21st annual Black Gay Pride, an event that is extremely significant for our city, only compounds the problematic nature of the decision.

Although I appreciate that officials and spokespersons from the department have recognized the improper closing of these establishments as the regrettable mistake that it is, more must be done to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. The police are not immune to the inherent and often unexamined biases that permeate our society, so it falls to the city to implement training programs that can eliminate these problems. This whole debacle illustrates just how much work we have to do in this area, despite decades of education and interaction between LGBTQ community advocates, police officials, and Atlanta City Hall.

Do you think the early closure of four Atlanta gay bars during Black Gay Pride was a miscommunication, discrimination or something else?

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