CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga — Two comedians filed a lawsuit against Clayton County for its police’s “racial profiling and coercive stops” during stops at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Channel 2 Action News attended a news conference Tuesday where Eric André and Clayton English announced the lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of these stops under the Fourth and 14th Amendments.
André and English are asking the federal court to declare the CCPD’s jet bridge stop program at the Atlanta airport unconstitutional. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
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On Oct. 30, 2020, English, a stand-up comedian and actor based in Atlanta, says he was randomly searched when traveling from Atlanta to Los Angeles.
Then on April 21, 2021, André was also traveling from Atlanta to Los Angeles and says he was stopped. As he walked through the jet bridge to board the plane, Andre said two Clayton County police officers intercepted him and immediately asked if he was carrying illegal drugs.
After about five minutes of questioning and reviewing André's ticket and ID, the officers allowed him to board his flight.
“I was blocked in a jet bridge by two police officers who interrogated me about drugs,” said André. “I didn’t see any other Black people boarding at the time. It’s hard to believe I was selected at ‘random’ for questioning. It was a humiliating and degrading experience.”
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The comedian’s representative asked that the airport stop program be shut down immediately.
“No matter where you’ve come from or where you’re going, everyone has the right to be free of discrimination and harassment by Clayton County law enforcement,” Allegra Lawrence-Hardy, co-founder, of Lawrence & Bundy, said. “We urge the court to shut down CCPD’s airport stop program immediately.”
The comedians’ attorneys alleged in the eight months before André's stop, 56% of the hundreds of passengers stopped by CCPD were recorded as Black. But overall, only 8% of airline passengers in the U.S. are Black.
“These are cases of flying while Black, plain and simple,” said Barry Friedman, co-founder of the Policing Project at NYU School of Law and the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law. “Every day in America, people of color are unjustly stopped on the pretense that these encounters are consensual. It is humiliating, it is deeply inappropriate, it is unconstitutional, and it must stop.”
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André is best known as the creator, host, and co-writer of the Adult Swim comedy series “The Eric Andre Show,” while English is the winner of 2015′s ”Last Comic Standing” TV show.
The Policing Project at NYU School of Law and pro bono counsel from the law firms of Jones Day and Lawrence & Bundy represent André and English, according to a news release.
Clayton County police have denied any wrongdoing and released this statement after the André incident.
“On April 21, 2021, the Clayton County Police Department made a consensual encounter with a male traveler, later identified as Eric Andre, as he was preparing to fly to California from the Atlanta Airport. Mr. Andre chose to speak with investigators during the initial encounter. During the encounter, Mr. Andre voluntarily provided the investigators information as to his travel plans. Mr. Andre also voluntarily consented to a search of his luggage but the investigators chose not to do so. Investigators identified that there was no reason to continue a conversation and therefore terminated the encounter. Mr. Andre boarded the plane without being detained and continued on his travels. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Atlanta Police Department did not assist in this consensual encounter.”
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