Baton Bob strikes back at Atlanta police

The cops should have known better than to mess with the Ambassador of Mirth.

Maybe they just didn’t recognize him in the wedding dress.

“Baton Bob” Jamerson, a prominent Midtown street performer, filed a lawsuit Friday in federal court against the City of Atlanta accusing its police of violating his constitutional rights, from freedom of speech to protection against unreasonable search by illegally arresting him last year.

And that’s for starters. They’re also accused of assault, privacy violations, discrimination and identity theft. Jamerson contends the arresting officer masqueraded as Baton Bob on the entertainer’s popular Facebook Page by coercing a positive statement about police from Jamerson and posting it.

He is also seeking a court order to prohibit police from handcuffing, frisking or detaining individuals without reasonable suspicion that the person is engaged in criminal activity.

The police arrested Jamerson, 62, on June 26, 2013 as he donned a short white tutu, mask and veil, to celebrate the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a 1996 law blocking federal recognition of gay marriage.

This was just a few months after Jamerson had emceed the Broken Hearts Ball for the singles on Valentine’s Day at the Highland Inn Ballroom Lounge and a couple of months before his portrait was hung in the Hyatt Midtown Atlanta.

According to the lawsuit, Jamerson, told his 5,000 plus followers of his Facebook page that he would be celebrating the Supreme Court decision with a performance at Peachtree and 14th Street. He said he had parked in the mall parking lot and had a confrontation while through the mall to the street with security guards who objected to his attire. The guards told police that Jamerson had trespassed on mall property.

By that time Jamerson had started his performance, which Officer H.J. Davis interrupted, telling the performer to come with him. Jamerson responded with an epithet and things went downhill from there, the lawsuit said.

“Although clearly within the bounds of the First Amendment, consisting of expressly political speech in a public forum, the performance was short-lived,’ the lawsuit said. “Officer Davis roughly forced Plaintiff’s hands behind his back. Deprived of the use of his hands as a buffer, Plaintiff was then shoved face first onto the ground and handcuffed by Officer Davis.”

The police did not respond immediately to AJC queries about the lawsuit.

The police, the lawsuit says, soon realized that the arrest was drawing media attention and then demanded Jamerson’s Facebook password and forced him to post positive comments about the police to try assuage outraged fans.

“Plaintiff was promised a signature bond if he gave a favorable statement about the incident on his Facebook page. At approximately 3:40 p.m., while Plaintiff sat handcuffed and without an attorney, he was told to dictate a public statement to Officer Davis, who then typed and posted the message to the Baton Bob Facebook account. The message read:

“First of all, the atl police officer that responded to the incident thru security has been very respectful and gracious to me even in handcuffs. So, the situation escalated from a complaint from a security officer in the area and for some reason she rolled up on me like she didn’t know who I was and like I had not been there before. For them to call police to come to intervene was not necessary. So, out of it, because of my fury, the Atlanta police officer did not understand the elements of the situation, so he was trying to do his job, respectfully and arrested my ass!!!!!!!!! I’ll be out tomorrow so look out for my show at 14th and Peachtree. So now I’m waiting to be transported so I can sign my own bond and get the hell out of here. I want to verify, that the Atlanta police was respectful to me considering the circumstances. See you when I see you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“As promised, Plaintiff was then given a signature bond and released from jail.”

The lawsuit contends the APD feared another firestorm from the wrongful arrest similar to the one that erupted after the APD’s raid on the Atlanta Eagle nightclub in 2009, which resulted in firings of officers and more than $1 million in legal settlements and another $1.2 million to a law firm to investigate the case.

While that didn’t happen, the lawsuit contends police have used the illegal confession and misdemeanor charges against Jamerson to shield themselves from public rebuke.

“Since the incident, Plaintiff has posted on the Baton Bob Facebook page regarding the illegality of the arrest and coerced confession, but his outcries have been viewed with skepticism by much of the media,” the lawsuit said. “Plaintiff’s arrest remains controversial, and his image and business continue to suffer from the after effects of the incident on June 26, 2013.”

RELATED: Baton Bob Photo Gallery

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.