On Saturday, February 22, 1997, a group known as the “Army of God” took responsibility for an act of terrorism that had happened, on the night before, at a bar known as The Otherside. This particular bar, located in Atlanta, Georgia, was owned by a lesbian and was frequented by many lesbians and gay men. The reason the “Army of God” had for bombing the bar was not just who went there, but who owned it as well.
The owner’s Brother ran an abortion clinic that had been bombed a month before by the same group. Even though the act of terrorism was mainly towards the bar and its owner, the additional injuries, suffered by the gay and lesbian clientele, were a bonus for the group.
The thought of bombing gay and lesbian establishments had never been an issue until now. With the number of hate crimes on the rise, one wonders what the next step in terror will be, and who will take that step. In addition to hatred towards the gay community, the World Wide Web has created a new source for those opposed to that lifestyle, to preach their hatred, and to spread it across the land in various ways. They encourage others to hurt, cripple, and murder those that they have determined to be freaks of nature.
The Atlanta Street was bustling with activity as cars drove by and people walked up and down the sidewalks on either side. Many were going in and out of the local lesbian club, The Otherside. With the holidays left behind, and people beginning the ritual of thawing out, this particular Friday evening was busier than usual.
A dark-haired man in his mid-20’s, looking nervous and anxious, walked to the front door of the club. He hesitated before entering, looking back down both sides of the street to see if anyone was watching him. All he saw was a white car parked across the street, his companion sitting in the driver’s seat, waiting for him. The young man knew that while the chances of his being watched did exist; the odds were very low and highly doubtful this one evening. He also knew that, after tonight, he would become a part of history, the type of history generally listed as a footnote to the larger, and more important events of the time. For him though, he was the big picture of history at the Moment so, caution was the word for the night; nothing was to stop him.
The man had never been in a gay or lesbian bar before. When he was finally inside, he found it made him sick, nauseated, but strangely, at the same time, he was fascinated by what he saw. Men were kissing men, and women were kissing women. It was so abnormal, so disgusting to him, he couldn’t help watch. He did too, as he moved around trying to find a discrete place to put down the package that was tucked inside his backpack. It was his little gift to these repulsive, disgusting freaks of nature.
Finally, he saw a glass door leading out to a patio, where there were tables with stools around them. As he walked out onto it, he saw a table in the corner with one stool, and it was empty. It was perfect for him to sit at while killing time, waiting for the magic moment when he could give his gift properly.
He placed his knapsack under the stool and sat down to watch the men and women talk to, and fondle each other. The bar itself didn’t seem to be any different from the straight ones he’d been to. Only the people in this one were different.
He looked at his watch. It read 12:55 am, almost 1:00, the time determined, after weeks of surveillance, to be the best time for what he, and the other members of his group, had decided would be the best way to send a message to two separate groups: the abortionists, and the queers.
Sweat began to run down the young man’s face, a clear sign he was very nervous about what he was about to do. The patio crowd thinned out due to a cold wind picking up, and yet, the man sweated like it was summer, and the sun was beating down on him alone. Looking around, he slowly and carefully slid off his stool, bending down to his backpack. He opened the top, just enough to slide a hand in, and flipped a switch that activated a timer. It began ticking down the one minute he had to leave the bar safely before everyone else noticed his little “present”. Satisfied that the timer was working, and with fifty-five seconds to go, he pushed the backpack further under the stool. Casually, he stood, and then, he headed out to the street.
Just as he stepped out the front door, he heard the gift opening up.
“BOOOOOOM!!!” One large, pulsating sound, then a brief second of silence before the screaming and panic set in.
The man who’d delivered the bomb gift got into the waiting car. They drove away from the scene quickly, and without a care. Within minutes, the bar was emptied. People helped the injured with first aid as they waited for the ambulances and fire trucks to arrive. One by one, the police, the fire department, EMS, and even the red bomb squad arrived, followed by several news vans that simply pulled in around the emergency vehicles. The lights flashing from the multi-colored strobes on these vehicles, and the white lights of the camera crews blinded everyone in front of them.
The terrorists were gone, but his companion had left another package for the emergency crews to find, at just the right moment, to cause more panic and confusion. Luckily, it was found by the rescue team; they were in time to clear the area before they dealt with it.
Before the terrorists left Georgia, heading west on Interstate 20, they switched vehicles four times to make sure the police couldn’t catch them. They had been prepared, and they were confident their job had been successful. It would be several days before they found out just how well they’d done.