Eric André sues police over ‘dehumanising and traumatic’ alleged racial profiling at Atlanta airport

Eric André sues police over ‘dehumanising and traumatic’ alleged racial profiling at Atlanta airport

Eric André is launching a lawsuit against Clayton County police over alleged racial profiling at Atlanta airport.

The Eric Andre Show star has filed the lawsuit alongside comedian Clayton English, following separate instances of alleged racial profiling and coercive search.

The alleged incidents took place at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Georgia.

According to The Associated Press, the police’s “jet bridge interdiction programme” sees officers stop, interrogate and potentially search passengers on the areas connecting planes to terminals.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers claim that the programme operates in violation of constitutional rights, with the stops alleged to “rely on coercion”, with targets “selected disproportionately based on their race”.

Named in the federal lawsuit are Clayton County, the chief of police, four officers and a DA’s office investigator.

André and English are seeking a jury trial, as well as compensatory damages, punitive damages, and legal costs, plus an admission that the jet bridge interdiction programme is unconstitutional.

Per AP, Police have responded to the suit by claiming that the “consensual encounters” involve passengers selected at “random” without racial bias.

The incidents involving André and English occured roughly six months apart.

“People were gawking at me and I looked suspicious when I had done nothing wrong,” André said in an interview. “It was demoralising, dehumanising, racist and traumatic.”

Julia Isaac, a spokesperson for the Clayton County police, told AP that the department does not comment on pending litigation.

Records from between 30 August 2020 and 30 April 2021 state that 402 stops were carried out on the jet bridges of the airport.

Eric Andre, star of ‘The Eric Andre Show’ and ‘Disenchantment' (Getty Images)
Eric Andre, star of ‘The Eric Andre Show’ and ‘Disenchantment' (Getty Images)

Of the 378 passengers whose racial identity was listed, 211 were Black – 56 per cent – with people of colour comprising 258 of the total stops (68 per cent), according to the lawsuit.

It is also reported that the 402 stops yielded three drug seizures. The contraband seized included 26 grams of “suspected THC gummies”, 10 grams of unspecified drugs and six prescription pills obtained without a prescription. The latter two seizures led to criminal charges.

André, a comedian and actor who appeared in Disney’s live-action Lion King remake, first went public with the allegations shortly after the incident occured in April 2021.

The department issued a statement Facebook at the time, which claimed: “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.”

Speaking at a news conference outside Atlanta’s federal courthouse, English said: “I felt completely powerless. I felt violated. I felt cornered,” said , “I felt like I had to comply if I wanted everything to go smoothly.”

André said he had a “moral calling” to initiate the lawsuit against the “unethical” practice.

“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?”