‘This Must Stop’: Tyler Perry and Black Hollywood Heavy-Hitters Back Comedians’ Lawsuit Against Police After Being Racially Profiled at Atlanta Airport

Tyler Perry and notable Black actors are taking a stance against law enforcement’s practice of racial profiling at the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

The Clayton County Police Department is named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by comedians Eric André and Clayton English in October 2022. The encounters that André and English, both Black men, faced further perpetuate “association of their race and potential criminality,” according to the filing. Perry penned an op-ed for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on June 6.

tyler perry racial profiling atlanta airport
Tyler Perry pens op-ed slamming racial profiling at Atlanta Airport following accounts of being ‘violated’ And ‘humiliated’ by police. (Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

He wrote, “Law enforcement agencies engaging in racial profiling and trying to hide the truth about it is nothing new in this country. Still, each time it happens, we are reminded that, as Black people, we are viewed — even by our own government — as less worthy of respect and constitutional protection than our white friends, neighbors and colleagues. And when we are singled out by police, the very officials who have sworn to protect us, we are faced with the very real horrors of what can and all too often does go wrong when police officers interact with Black people.”

The two men say they were targeted and harassed by police on jet bridges as they began to board flights, André in 2021 and England in 2020. André tweeted that he was racially profiled by two officers who “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.” He warned his followers to “be careful.”

English’s near-identical encounter happened six months prior, leaving him feeling “completely powerless, violated, and cornered.” He shared that passengers who witnessed the exchange with police were “gawking” at him the entire flight, causing him to fear that he would be arrested upon the plane’s landing.

The court document lists 53 persons as invested in the outcome of the case, which is now being overseen by the court of appeals, that was filed in January. Some of those names of supporters include actors Sterling K. Brown, Michael Eally, Jamie Foxx, Tarji P. Henson, Yaya Abdul Mateen, Jodie Turner-Smith, Rege-Jean Page, and director Antoine Fuqua, to name a few.

Tyle Perry pens op-ed calling out racial profiling at Atlanta airport after comedians Eric André and Clayton English file lawsuit. (Photos: @tylerperry/Instagram, @ericandretour/Instagram, @claytonenglish/Instagram.)

As stated in the filing, the Hollywood talents “have a significant interest in protecting their right to travel without being subjected to the humiliation and intimidation of racial discrimination.”

Perry noted that as Atlanta has become known as the “Black Hollywood,” his concern is that officers’ disproportionate targeting of Black passengers will increase.

“When racial discrimination occurs unchecked, it threatens that growth. Predatory and race-based policing discourages the actors, directors, writers, crew and other industry professionals from wanting to work in or travel to and from Atlanta,” wrote the mogul, who owns a studio situated on 330 acres.

Statistics illustrating the issue highlight that 56 percent of flyers stopped at the city’s airport are Black, whereas only 8 percent are white. The “Mea Culpa” director believes that cops may be motivated to question passengers becasue they are cash.

Money collected during their searches is considered civil asset forfeiture and submitted to the department’s coffers. Nearly $1 million was collected between the two men being stopped. 

Perry continued, “Every act of racial discrimination is a broken promise, an affront to our dignity, an insult to Atlanta’s history and a vestige of a history that America must leave behind. This must stop.

“Civic leaders should see to that. And if not, it is my hope that the judiciary will weigh in and affirm the obvious: Racial discrimination by law enforcement is wrong, and it’s against the law. In the 21st century, Black people must have the freedom to travel without worrying about being stopped because of the color of our skin.”

Despite the run-in, André has continued to bring his comedy to the Peach State, most recently kicking off “The Eric André Show Live” in Atlanta on June 6.

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