Two comedians, Eric André and Clayton English are taking Atlanta’s Hartsfield- Jackson Airport to task for its drug search program. They believe that the program is unconstitutional, unnecessary and racist.
NBC News reports, “police records show that from Aug. 30, 2020, to April 30, 2021, there were 402 jet bridge stops and that passengers’ races were listed for 378 of those stops. Of those 378 passengers, 211, or 56%, were Black, and people of color accounted for 258 total stops, or 68%, the lawsuit says.”
See the specifics of the story below.
1. When Were The Comedians Stopped?
According to the lawsuit filed by their attorneys, “English was stopped while flying from Atlanta, where he lives, to Los Angeles for work on Oct. 30, 2020.”
After working on an HBO special, André was on his way to Los Angeles from Charleston, South Carolina. He was stopped for a drug search in April 2020 during his layover in Atlanta.
2. The Drug Searches Are Allegedly Racist
According to AP News, the comedians allege “that a police program at the airport violates the constitutional rights of airline passengers, particularly Black passengers, through racial profiling and coercive searches just as they are about to board their flights.”
3. What Do The Comedians Allege?
As AP News explains, “officers singled them out during separate stops roughly six months apart because they are Black and grilled them about drugs as other passengers watched.”
When the comedians reached the jet bridge, officers inquired whether they had illegal drugs on them.
AP News reports that “both were asked to hand over their boarding passes and identification. An officer said he wanted to search English’s bag, and English agreed, not believing he had a choice.”
English said later, “I felt completely powerless. I felt violated. I felt cornered. I felt like I had to comply if I wanted everything to go smoothly.”
4. Police Call The Stops "Consensual"
The police select passengers at random and refer to the stops as “consensual encounters.”
Attorneys for the comedians argue the police “rely on coercion, and targets are selected disproportionately based on their race.”
5. Why Did The Comedians File The Lawsuit?
André, who reported his experience right after it happened, said that filing the lawsuit was the moral thing to do.
He also said he wants to use the platform and resources he has to sound the alarm on this form of racial profiling.
He hopes “these practices can stop and these cops can be held accountable because it’s unethical. It’s not an isolated incident. If Black people don’t speak up for each other, who will?”
6. What Do The Comedians Hope The Lawsuit Will Achieve?
AP News reports “they seek a jury trial and ask that the Clayton County police jet bridge interdiction program be declared unconstitutional. They also seek compensatory and punitive damages, as well as legal costs.”