Clayton English and Eric Andre, both comedians, filed a lawsuit against Clayton County Police on Tuesday. They claimed that they were subject to racist drug searches at Atlanta’s airport.
English and Andre said that authorities approached them while they were waiting to board the plane. They pulled them aside in front of the other passengers and asked if they were carrying drugs. These incidents took place at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Georgia.
The comedians stated that they believe that the search practices are illegal, and disproportionately impact black people who have passed security.
During searches, authorities did not discover drugs on Andre or English. The encounters were argued by the attorneys for both men that violated civil rights.
English stated at the press conference that he was stopped by authorities on October 30, 2020, before he flew from Atlanta to Los Angeles for work.
“I had already presented my ticket to a gate agent. English stated at the press conference that I was nearly on the plane when two officers appeared from the jet bridge and began asking me questions about illegal drugs such as cocaine and meth. “I felt the need for compliance. They forced me to move to the tunnel’s side, where they took my ticket & ID.
English was eventually allowed to board the plane after police checked his bag. However, he stated that he was worried the whole trip and was waiting for “the other shoe to drop.”
English said, “I was thinking: Ok, maybe I’m going to get arrested when I land; What did I do wrong; or is this something that usually happens to people?”
Eric Andre stated that he was traveling from Charleston, South Carolina to Los Angeles, with a stop in Atlanta. After he had passed through TSA, he gave the gate agent his ticket and was on the jet bridge, he stated that two police officers approached him “almost ambush-style”.
Andre claimed that officers asked him whether he had drugs. He stated that “It was clearly racist profiling.”
The Clayton County Police Department issued a Facebook statement the same day calling Andre’s encounter “consensual.”
The police posted that Mr. Andre had agreed to speak with investigators in the initial encounter. “Mr. Andre also consented to the search of his baggage, but the investigators decided not to do so.”
Andre stated that the Tuesday news conference “did not feel like a consensual meeting whatsoever.”
Barry Friedman, one of the lawyers representing the comedians in the lawsuit against the police, stated that searches at the airport were part of a drug-interdiction program.
According to the lawsuit, although the program was largely unsuccessful in confiscating drugs, it seized $1 million from passengers on airlines between August 30, 2020, and April 30, 2021.
Friedman stated that authorities carried out 402 searches during the interdiction program. This only resulted on three occasions in which drugs were confiscated from passengers.
Friedman concluded that searches had disproportionately affected blacks after reviewing police records. For 378 out of 402 searches, the passenger’s race was recorded. According to the lawyer, 211 (or 56%) of those searches were conducted by black individuals.
WXIA-TV was informed by a Clayton County Police Department spokesperson that they could not comment on any pending litigation. Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport declined to comment.