‘It Was Demoralizing, Dehumanizing, Racist and Traumatic’: Comedians Eric André and Clayton English Sue Suburban Atlanta Police Department Over Searches at Airport

Comedians Eric André and Clayton English, who are both Black, are seeking their day in court after recent lawsuits claim the two were racially profiled by police and questioned about drugs at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on separate occasions in 2021 and 2020.

André announced during the Tuesday, October 11, conference that he and English were filing the suit against the Clayton County Police Department and calling on the court to declare that it’s unconstitutional for police officers to stop, question, and or search passengers on the bridges from their gate to their airplane.

Lawyers for the stars claim that CCPD and the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office are exercising tactics that fail to meet the requirements of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. “CCPD calls these stops ‘consensual encounters’ and ‘random,’” the lawsuit stated. “They are neither; the CCPD jet bridge interdictions rely on coercion, and targets are selected disproportionately based on their race.”

As previously reported at Atlanta Black Star, the incident with André occurred in April 2021 when the “Bad Trip” star claimed he was racially profiled while on his way to a departing flight at Atlanta’s main airport. The actor later made a series of posts on Twitter recounting the experience. 

“I was just racially profiled by two plainclothes Atlanta PD officers in Delta terminal T3 at Atlanta airport. They stopped me on the way down the bridge to the plane for a “random” search and asked [if] they could search me for drugs. I told them no. Be careful,” he wrote at the time. However, the CCPD argued in a statement shortly after that it was a “consensual encounter.”

Meanwhile, English, who reached out to the former after his incident, alleged a similar situation happened to him six months before as he was boarding a flight to Los Angeles.

In the suit, the “Slice 2” star said he was walking down the bridge toward the airplane when two plainclothes officers reportedly approached him flashing their badges, asking whether the comic had cocaine, methamphetamine, or any other illegal drug on his person before searching his bag. 

At the conference, English said the experience left him “completely powerless.” He added, “I felt violated, I felt cornered, I felt like I couldn’t … continue to get on the plane — I felt like I had to comply if I wanted everything to go smoothly.”

English told reporters that despite boarding the flight, he felt uneasy as he was “waiting for the other shoe to drop,” contemplating whether he be arrested next.  

According to the Washington Post, from Aug. 30, 2020, to April 30, 2021, the CCPD orchestrated 402 jet bridge stops. Still, the lawsuit stated that officers only found fewer than 0.08 pounds of illegal drugs and six prescription pills for which passengers did not have a prescription. At the same time, the department pursued charges against just two passengers.

The suit stated that of those 378 passengers whose race was listed, 211 were Black (56 percent of those stopped), and 258 were people of color (68 percent of those stopped). 

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