If Black people don’t speak up for each other, who will?Eric Andre
A police program design to catch passengers carrying drugs in the airport is disproportionately affecting Black passengers and comedian Eric Andre has decided to take action after being stopped and asked humiliating questions about whether or not he was carrying drugs in front of other passengers while traveling via the Atlanta airport to his home in LA.
Andre and another Black comedian Clayton English have both decided to sue the police department in Clayton County for racial profiling and humiliating mostly Black passengers as they board their flights by coercive searches and seizure of money in many cases for passengers who are not guilty of any crime.
Andre’s attorneys propose that even having large amounts of cash is considered a crime when seized by the disproportionate amount of Black men who are approached during these stops.
Andre and English state they were both stopped within 6 months of each other at the same airport and humiliated by being singled out and grilled about drug possession in front of other passengers. Andre states “People were gawking at me” and called the experience “dehumanizing and demoralizing.”
Drugs are rarely found when these searches take place and criminal charges rarely result as well but the seized cash offers financial benefit to the police department, Andre’s lawyers purport.
Once the racially profiled passengers are stopped and no drugs are found the humiliation continues when they board the flight in front of the other passengers who have witnessed what took place. A spokesperson for the Clayton County police department states they don’t comment on pending litigation when approached about the situation.
Police records indicate from Aug. 30, 2020, to April 30, 2021, there were a total of 402 jet bridge stops, and the passenger’s race was listed for 378 of those stops. Of those 378 passengers, 56%, were Black, and others were people of color and non-Black. When people of color were included the total stopped and questioned was a total of 68% of the 378 people who were stopped.
Moreover, those 402 stops yielded more than $1 million in cash and money orders seized by the Clayton County Police department from a total of 25 passengers. Only eight of the 25 passengers challenged the seizures, and Clayton County police settled each of those cases, returning the seized money, the lawsuit says. What happened to the rest of the money is in question.
Andre’s attorneys state the police department calls the stops “consensual” and says they are “random,” but in reality, the stops “rely on coercion, and targets are selected disproportionately based on their race,” the lawyers argue. Black men are often terrified when they have any kind of encounter with police and often think even when they are right, they are perceived as being in the wrong by the police.
In the comments on one site, a white passenger suggested that the minute you have a conversation with the police when they question you it’s considered “consensual.” He suggested ignoring the police requests and continuing to walk but Black men don’t see that as an option when it comes to the police.
Andre has taken it upon himself to use his celebrity to speak out against the infractions and racial profiling by stating “I have the resources to bring national attention and international attention to this incident. It’s not an isolated incident,” he said. “If Black people don’t speak up for each other, who will?”
NYU School of Law Policing Project co-founder Barry Friedman, one of the lawyers who filed the lawsuit, encouraged anyone else who has had similar experiences to get in touch.
The lawsuit alleges violations of the constitutional rights that protect against unreasonable searches and seizures
Both comedians are seeking a jury trial, compensatory and punitive damages, and asking that the Clayton County police jet bridge program be declared unconstitutional.