The granddaughter of reggae music legend Bob Marley is speaking out in the wake of a harrowing encounter with Rialto, Calif. police she says left she and her friends fearful for their lives.
Donisha Prendergast said she and her friends (two Black, one white) were checking out of the Airbnb they rented last month when a neighbor who did not recognize them called the police to report a burglary in progress. The women, all aspiring filmmakers, were loading their luggage into a car in the driveway at the time.
The nosy neighbor claimed she smiled and waved at the unfamiliar faces, but got no response. She thought it suspicious and picked up the phone to call 911.
Within minutes, the group of friends were swarmed by police as they headed to their next destination. A police helicopter was even called in and a section of the road blocked off to keep them from fleeing. Prendergast and her friends were detained and questioned for close to 20 minutes before the cops let them go.
Video of the incident went viral on social media and has become one of the latest incidents of the police being called on Black folks for absolutely no reason. In an interview with The Grio, Prendergast said she felt she and her friends deserved to be treated with more respect.
” … We find the response from the police and their use of the words ‘respect’ and ‘dignity’ about the situation to be skewed,” she said. “When they jumped out of their vehicle and shouted at us to put our hands up with their hands on their holsters unclipped and ready, I don’t think that’s a respectful way to engage anyone.”
“We aren’t used to people speaking to us in that kind of disrespectful tone,” Prendergast added. “We demanded of them that they treat us with the respect that is due to us.”
Prendergast’s companion Kelly Fyffe-Marshall was struck by fear when police arrived. She revealed to the publication that her initial thought went to memories of Sandra Bland.
“My first response was fear. I thought of Sandra Bland. I watched that story so closely because we’re the same age and I understood her thoughts. I saw myself as Sandra Bland, so when this happened, I thought of all the people before me who hadn’t made it out of the situation.”
The young filmmaker said she thought it important to get the incident on camera because she knew the power it would have. In this case, she said they used the video to “prepare ourselves with what we had to preserve our lives.” Moreover, Prendergast denied that the neighbor ever waved to them and said she only saw her with her hands pressed on the window while she talked on the phone.
“My grandma was waiting on me when those policemen decided to interrupt my life with their stupid, irresponsible, expensive display of fear that escalated from one woman,” she told The Grio. “For her to say that we didn’t smile and wave, that’s not cool because that’s not true. She didn’t smile or wave either. As a matter of fact, the energy that we perceived from her as she was standing across the way was uncomfortable. She didn’t want us there.”
When looking back on the incident, Prendergast recalled her late grandfather’s music, which evoked messages of a revolution and standing up for your rights. She said today, she can still look around and see Black folks still mentally enslaved by a system they have no control over.
“I just have to be really quiet right now to over-stand this position that the universe is putting us in as voices to speak on behalf of those who don’t have the voice to speak,” she said. “I have to be humble to that reality. My grandfather was protecting us. His energy was surrounding us. By his grace we are here to speak.”
No lawsuit has yet been filed over the incident, however, the group of friends have retained legal representation.