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Comedians Eric André and Clayton English Sue Airport Police Over Racial Profiling

Comedians Eric André and Clayton English Sue Airport Police Over Racial Profiling

In two separate instances, André and English were "randomly" stopped while boarding flights at the same airport.

Comedians Eric André and Clayton English have filed a lawsuit against the Clayton County Police Department in Atlanta following two separate incidents in 2020 and 2021 where they allege they were racially profiled by airport police.

The incidents both took place at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where plainclothes officers stopped the two on the bridges between their gate and airplane to question them and search their bags for drugs. Despite André not having any substances, they continued their probing. He noted that he was the only Black person on the bridge.

André tweeted about the 2021 encounter after it happened, stating: "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."

The CCPD released a statement after André's tweet, referring to the search as a "consensual encounter." When André later discussed it on Jimmy Kimmel Live, he refuted the framing, calling their conduct "old-school, Giuliani stop-and-frisk racial profiling."

“There’s all these people having to squeeze past us on this narrow, awkward jet bridge as I look like this suspicious perpetrator,” André recently told NBC News. “And I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. I’m literally coming home from a work trip.”

Following André's statements, English revealed that he experienced a similar search at the same airport six months prior, one that left him feeling "completely powerless, violated and cornered." He and André connected over their experiences shortly after, and have now filed the lawsuit together.

"CCPD calls these stops 'consensual encounters' and 'random,'" the lawsuit states. "They are neither; the CCPD jet bridge interdictions rely on coercion, and targets are selected disproportionately based on their race."

Despite conducting 402 of these jet-bridge searches, officers "found fewer than 0.08 pounds of illegal drugs." Of those stopped, 378 cases had documented the race of the passenger, with 68 percent of those 378 being people of color. That percentage is significantly higher than both the local population of POC and the amount of air travelers who are non-white.

"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," the lawsuit continues.

Despite these searches returning an astronomically low amount of illicit substances, officers confiscated a total of $1 million in cash from passengers through civil asset forfeitures.

The lawsuit adds: "These seizures do not meaningfully combat drug trafficking, but they do provide a financial windfall for the department by taking advantage of the permissive civil standards for asset forfeitures and the reluctance of individuals (particularly individuals of color) to challenge seizures."

André and English are asking for a jury trial that will hopefully rule the CCPD's procedures to be unconstitutional. André stated that he felt a "moral calling" to use his platform and assets to levy the suit “so these practices can stop and these cops can be held accountable for this, because it’s unethical.”

“I have the resources to bring national attention and international attention to this incident. It’s not an isolated incident,” André said. “If Black people don’t speak up for each other, who will?”

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