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NAACP Leader Fights Back with Racial Discrimation Lawsuit After American Airlines Boots Him Off Flight

Rev. Dr. William Barber (Callen Harty/blue cheddar/Flickr)

Rev. Dr. William Barber (Callen Harty/blue cheddar/Flickr)

North Carolina NAACP head Rev. William Barber is suing American Airlines for racial discrimination after he was kicked off a flight this spring. Barber was forced to confront a passenger who complained about “those people,” and his lawsuit reveals more details about what occurred than previously revealed.

Atlanta Black Star reported in April that the arline forced Barber off the flight that was traveling from Washington, D.C to Raleigh-Durham International Airport after a confrontation with a passenger.

In the documents filed Wednesday, Dec. 14 and obtained by The Washington Post, Barber said there were two white men loudly complaining about him on board the April 15 flight. They appeared to be intoxicated, the suit claims, and a flight attendant begrudgingly urged them to quiet down, then she singled Barber out. That’s when the duo upped the ante and began swearing. The documents state one of the men told the other that “he did not like ‘those people,’ and that ‘those people’ made him sick.”

The suit goes on to note that after personnel requested to see Barber’s boarding passes as proof that he had purchased two seats in order to rest his leg because of a severe form of arthritis, the men allegedly mocked him more. Barber then stood up to confront the men, who were seated behind him. The lawsuit claims he asked them not to talk about him and to calm down, but more verbal abuse followed. A police officer was ultimately called on board and Barber was ordered off the plane. The civil rights leader said in the suit that he was forced to leave in pain after his cane was taken from him.

“This differential treatment was based on race, as other passengers noted and stated to American Airlines employees,” the lawsuit says. “Reverend Barber was calm, complied with all directives from the flight crew and did nothing that remotely warranted being ejected from the airplane.”

The suit also says a Black airline employee confirmed such incidents “happen a lot.”

However, one of the two white men involved anonymously told ABC 11 that his alleged racial comments were taken the wrong way.

“‘I can’t stand those types of people’ who would call someone over and say something to the stewardess,” the man claimed he said. “I felt a little bit disrespected, and so after I said ‘I don’t like those kinds of people,’ he must have taken it out of context, in the wrong context.”

Still, Barber told The Post his goal is to prevent similar situations from happening to others. “It’s been a major battle this year, fighting against all this oppression,” he said.

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