After initially speaking out about the incident last year, comedian Eric André is officially suing Clayton County police over racial profiling and coercive stops at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
André and fellow comedian Clayton English announced that they had filed a lawsuit in Georgia federal court, claiming that their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure and racial discrimination were violated when police stopped them on the way to boarding their respective flights. Naming Clayton County, the chief of police, four officers and the district attorney's office investigator in the suit, André and English are seeking a formal declaration that the police department's jet bridge interdiction program is unconstitutional in addition to compensatory damages, punitive damages and legal fees.
The lawsuit alleges that the program, designed as a way to fight interstate drug trafficking by conducting selective stops, has yielded very few drugs. Instead, the cash seized served as more of a financial boon for the department. According to police records cited in the lawsuit, out of the 402 documented jet bridge stops that were conducted, 56% of passengers were Black and only three of those reports listed any drugs that were seized, two of which ended up getting charged. In comparison, the lawsuit states that Clayton County police seized over $1 million in cash and money orders from 25 passengers with only eight of those passengers actually challenging the civil asset forfeiture in court.
André previously tweeted about the airport incident last year shortly after it happened. “I was just racially profiled by two plain clothes Atlanta PD police in Delta terminal T3 at the Atlanta airport. They stopped me on the way down the bridge to the plane for a ‘random’ search and asked they could search me for drugs. I told them no,” he wrote, going on to appeal to Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for help. “At that moment, I was the only POC on line. I know this isn't the PD you want representing your airports.”
André would later go on to detail the experience at length on Jimmy Kimmel! Live, describing the incident as an “old-school, Giuliani stop-and-frisk racial profiling” and that the Clayton County police's assertion that it was a "consensual encounter" in their official statement was a "bald-faced lie."
At a press conference announcing the lawsuit, André stated that he felt a "moral calling" to follow through on filing the lawsuit “so these practices can stop and these cops can be held accountable for this because it’s unethical.” He also added that “I have the resources to bring national attention and international attention to this incident. It’s not an isolated incident. If Black people don’t speak up for each other, who will?”
André encouraged anyone else that had similar run-ins with Clayton County police to get in contact with their lawyer.
Photo via Getty/Amy Sussman/FilmMagic
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