By: Paul Goldberg, Staff Writer
GAY NEWS – ATLANTA, GA — Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields has reassigned a morning watch commander over complaints of racism and homophobia over this past Monday’s incident where it was reported that the commander forced several Midtown Gay bars to close early.
“While I do not believe the commander purposely set out to act in a discriminatory manner, his actions certainly gave that perception to bar owners, managers and patrons,” said Chief Shields in a statement released in the afternoon of Wednesday, September 6.
According to the chief, police were attempting to clear the sidewalks and parking lots surrounding the bars — Blake’s, G’s, Ten, and 10th & Piedmont around 12:30 a.m. which is according to local officials, the closing time on a Sunday nights.
The reason why this made no sense was because the Atlanta City Council had passed an exemption which allowed the establishments to stay open until 2:30 a.m. so that they could accommodate the large crowds in town for the annual Black Gay Pride celebration.
The firestorm took off quickly that on Tuesday September 5, APD spokesman Carlos Campos came forward to apologize for what he characterized as “an honest mistake based on a communication failure.”
“The bars came to the attention of the morning watch commander who Campos said was openly gay, took matters into his own hands because the crowds from the bars were spilling out into the streets blocking traffic and causing a potential public safety hazard,” said Campos.
Being an election season, the controversy reached the likes of mayoral candidates Mary Norwood and Cathy Woolard who were among those who voiced and concerned over the incident and questioned the official explanation and the motives behind the commander’s actions regardless if he is an openly gay man.
“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,” said former Atlanta City Council president and currently the state’s first openly gay elected official, Cathy Woolard.
Review Police chief Shields full statement released to the press…“Our commanders and officers simply must show more sensitivity to the concerns of our diverse communities,” she said. “We also must ensure that vital communications about matters such as extended bar hours are properly relayed to zone supervisors expected to enforce such ordinances. The diversity of its people is one of the City of Atlanta’s greatest strengths. Any perception that the Atlanta Police Department does not respect, and celebrate, that diversity must be dealt with swiftly.” concluded chief Shields.
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