Comedians Clayton English and Eric André declared that they were racially profiled by police at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on separate occasions in 2021 and 2020.
They then filed a lawsuit against the Clayton County Police Department and the district attorney’s office on Tuesday. They also called on the court to assert that it’s unconstitutional for police officers to stop passengers on the bridges from their gate to their airplane, question them and search their bags.
André openly spoke about the incident on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in April 2021 and called the conduct of the Clayton County Police Department “old-school, Giuliani stop-and-frisk racial profiling.”
According to NPR, of the 402 jet bridge stops, 378 stops had the race of the passenger listed in the records; 56% of those 378 passengers were Black, and 68% were people of color, according to the lawsuit. Those are far higher percentages than in both the local population and U.S. air travelers as a whole.
@Atlanta_Police “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. Be careful.
— Eric Andre (@ericandre) April 21, 2021
André said two officers stopped him on the jet bridge during a layover in Atlanta in April 2021 and asked if he had illegal drugs. After denying he had drugs, the officers persisted in their inquiry. André said he was the only Black person he could see on the jet bridge.
The police department wrote, “Mr. Andre chose to speak with investigators during the initial encounter. During the encounter, Mr. Andre voluntarily provided the investigator’s information as to his travel plans. Mr. Andre also voluntarily consented to search his luggage, but the investigators chose not to do so.”
While stopped on the jet bridge, English reported that people were “gawking” at him and wondered for the entire three 1/2-hour flight whether he would be arrested when the plane landed.
The lawsuit states, “By ambushing passengers in this manner, the Unit’s officers compound the enormous, preexisting compulsion to cooperate with airport law enforcement by exploiting the passengers’ fear that they will create an untoward scene or will appear guilty, subversive, or dangerous to their fellow passengers.”