StoryCorps seeking Atlanta Eagle raid first-person accounts

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Thanks to the power of social media, first-person accounts from the city’s infamous September 2009 raid of the Atlanta Eagle on Ponce de Leon Avenue may wind up archived in the Library of Congress. StoryCorps, the national non-profit founded in 2003 and dedicated to recording American oral histories, has a recording studio at Atlanta’s WABE-FM. The controversial 2009 gay bar raid by the city’s now-disbanded Red Dog Unit was performed by 24 officers who ordered patrons to lie face down on the floor for hours as they performed searches, background checks and shouted anti-gay slurs. Last summer, Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed’s office released a scathing 343-page independent report on the raid, disclosing that 16 officers later lied or destroyed evidence about the botched raid. Half a dozen APD officers were fired and nine were disciplined in the fallout from the raid.

On Wednesday, WABE reporter Jim Burress put the word out on his Facebook page that StoryCorps producers want to document stories from the incident which eventually led to the city paying out more than a million dollars after bar patrons filed a federal lawsuit.  On his Facebook page, Burress posted this to potential Eagle patron interviewees: “It doesn’t have to be just about what happened that night—it can be about how the night changed you, what the legal victory means to you, what role the raid will play in Atlanta’s LGBT history, etc. All interviews are preserved in the Library of Congress, and selected stories are heard weekly both here in Atlanta on 90.1-FM, and nationally on NPR’s Morning Edition. If you are a StoryCorps fan, you know how powerful these segments can be. If you’re not familiar, the facilitators here in Atlanta are glad to answer any questions you have.”

If you’d like to share your story with StoryCorps producers (the non-profit also shares its content on a handy  iPhone app for listeners on the go), you can email Burress at jburress@wabe.org

Former Eagle bartender Chris Lopez, who last fall filed his own federal lawsuit against the city and four APD officers, claiming his constitutional rights were violated, also shared the StoryCorps info with Facebook friends Wednesday.

There was no immediate word on whether former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin, who was in charge when the raid took place, has reached out to StoryCorps producers to add her tale to the public record. On the off chance Franklin isn’t in the mood to take a stroll down memory lane to share her thoughts on the case, our advice to StoryCorps archivists? Track down former Southern Voice reporter Matt Schafer and his trusty MP3 player recorded interview with herzonner. After Franklin deftly dodged reporter inquiries about the raid in 2009, Schaefer got his exclusive in the paint aisle of the Home Depot on Ponce (just a few blocks from where the raid took place) when he bumped into florally decored Franklin as she shopped for wall colors.

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