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Why Eric Andre and Clayton English filed a lawsuit against the Clayton County Police Department

Andre and English claim they were racially profiled at the Atlanta International Airport on separate occasions

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Comedian Eric André, right, speaks at a news conference outside the federal courthouse in Atlanta.

Comedian Eric André, right, speaks at a news conference outside the federal courthouse in Atlanta on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, as his attorneys Allegra Lawrence-Hardy, left, and Richard Deane watch. André and comedian Clayton English filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging that they were racially profiled and illegally stopped by Clayton County police at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. They say officers singled them out during separate stops roughly six months apart because they are Black and grilled them about drugs as other passengers watched.

Kate Brumback, Associated Press

Comedians Eric Andre and Clayton English filed a lawsuit against the Clayton County Police Department for racial profiling.

The comedians claim they were racially profiled by police at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on separate occasions, Andre in 2021 and English in 2020.

The lawsuit states, “Racial profiling and coercive stops and searches, has violated the constitutional rights of scores of people, disproportionately Black people.”

Both men say they were singled out and stopped by police on the bridge between the gate and the airplane to be questioned and have their bags searched for illegal drugs. Andre believes he was the only Black man on the bridge at the time he was stoped.

“I felt completely powerless. I felt violated. I felt cornered,” English said at a news conference outside the federal courthouse in Atlanta, according to The Associated Press.

Andre spoke about his experience in the Atlanta airport in an interview, saying, “People were gawking at me and I looked suspicious when I had done nothing wrong.” Andre said his experience was “dehumanizing and demoralizing.”

Clayton County Police Department released a statement in which they allege they had a “consensual encounter” with Andre, and that he “voluntarily consented to a search of his luggage but the investigators chose not to do so.”

Police claim the purpose of the airplane bridge program is to fight drug trafficking, and that searches are made consensually and at random.

Andre and Clayton allege in the lawsuit that the searches are not made at random, but are targeted.

According to the lawsuit, police records obtained for the lawsuit show that during an eight-month period, between August 2020 and April 2021, the CCPD conducted 402 bridge stops. Police recorded the race of the stopped passengers on 376 stops, of which 56% were Black. Only 8% of American Airline passengers are Black.

Through airplane bridge searches during the eight month span described in the lawsuit, officers have reportedly seized less than 0.08 pounds of illegal drugs and six prescription pills that a passenger did not have a prescription for.

The bridge searches have led to a financial windfall — during that same eight month span, officers obtained over $1 million in asset forfeitures, or money suspected to be earned through crime, the lawsuit said.

Andre said that he believes he has a “moral calling” to bring awareness to this issue.

“I have the resources to bring national attention and international attention to this incident. It’s not an isolated incident,” Andre said. “If Black people don’t speak up for each other, who will?”