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Comedians sue police, allege Atlanta airport searches racist
Image Source: WXIA-TV video screenshot

Comedians sue police, allege Atlanta airport searches racist

Successful comedians Eric André and Clayton English announced a lawsuit against Clayton County police on Tuesday after the two claimed they were subjected to racist drug searches at the Atlanta airport.

André and English said authorities approached them on the jet bridge while they were waiting in line to board, pulled them aside in front of the other passengers, and asked them if they were carrying narcotics. The two incidents occurred roughly six months apart at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia.

In a news conference on Tuesday, the comedians said they believe the search practices are illegal and disproportionately affect black people who have already passed through security.

Authorities did not find drugs on either André or English during the searches. Attorneys for the two men argued that the encounters violated their clients' civil rights.

At the press conference, English explained that he was stopped on October 30, 2020, before a flight from his hometown of Atlanta to Los Angeles for work.

"I already presented a gate agent with my ticket. I was almost on the plane when in the jet bridge, two officers popped out, showed their badges, and started asking questions, whether I had illegal drugs like cocaine and meth," English said at the press conference. "I felt the need to comply. They made me move to the side of the tunnel, where they took my ticket and ID."

After police searched through his bag, English was ultimately allowed to board the flight, but he said he was concerned the entire trip, waiting for the "other shoe to drop."

English stated, "I was thinking: 'Okay, maybe I'm gonna get arrested when I land; what did I do wrong; is this something that normally happens to people?'"

On April 21, 2020, Eric André said he was flying from Charleston, South Carolina, to Los Angeles with a layover in Atlanta. He stated that two cops approached him "almost in an ambush-style" on the jet bridge after he had already passed through TSA and given the gate agent his ticket.

André claimed that the officers asked him if he had any drugs on him. "It was clearly racial profiling," said André.

That same day, the Clayton County Police Department released a statement on Facebook, calling the encounter with André "consensual."

"Mr. André chose to speak with investigators during the initial encounter," the police department's post read. "Mr. André also voluntarily consented to a search of his luggage but the investigators chose not to do so."

During the Tuesday news conference, André argued that "it definitely did not feel like a consensual encounter whatsoever."

Barry Friedman, one of the lawyers representing the comedians in their lawsuit against the police department, stated that the searches conducted at the airport were a part of a drug interdiction program.

The lawsuit alleged that the program has been largely unsuccessful in confiscating narcotics but has seized approximately $1 million from airline passengers from August 30, 2020, to April 30, 2021.

Friedman said that during that period, authorities conducted 402 searches as part of the interdiction program, which only resulted in three occasions where drugs were confiscated from passengers, including 10 grams of drugs from one individual, 26 grams of "suspected THC gummies" from another, and six prescription pills without a prescription from a third.

After reviewing police records, Friedman argued that the searches disproportionately impacted black people. The passenger's race was listed for 378 of the 402 searches conducted. The lawyer stated that 211 of those, or 56 percent, were black individuals.

A Clayton County Police Department spokesperson told WXIA-TV that the department could not comment on pending litigation. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport also declined to comment at this time.

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Candace Hathaway

Candace Hathaway

Candace Hathaway is a staff writer for Blaze News.
@candace_phx →