Alexandra Del Rosario
Los Angeles Times
Eric André is taking legal action against the Clayton County Police Department, a year after he said he was searched and stopped at an Atlanta airport with “no probable cause except for racism” in 2021.
On Tuesday, the “Eric André Show” star and fellow comedian Clayton English filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in federal court in Atlanta claiming that they were racially profiled and illegally stopped by Clayton County police at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
“Mr. André and Mr. English are both Black men who, months apart, were unconstitutionally singled out because of their race and detained by CCPD and [ Clayton County District Attorney’s Office] officers, while attempting to board their flights from Atlanta to Los Angeles,” said the legal document. “Neither man committed any crime nor engaged in suspicious activity.”
At the center of the suit are two incidents, one involving English in October 2020 and another concerning André in April 2021. The suit says each comedian was stopped and searched while on the jet bridge waiting to board, and each was asked about drugs.
“I want to use my resources and my platform to bring national attention to this incident so that it stops,” André said during a press hearing outside of the federal courthouse in Atlanta on Tuesday.
Clayton County police representative Julia Isaac told The Times that the department does not comment during pending litigations.
According to the suit, English was stopped on Oct. 30, 2020, while traveling from his hometown of Atlanta to Los Angeles for work. After clearing the TSA security screening, English was interrogated by two officers who asked whether he was carrying illegal drugs. The suit alleges that the officers also went through English’s luggage and did not answer why they were doing so.
” Mr. English spent the entire flight ruminating over the encounter, convinced that something else was going to happen,” the suit said. “The entire experience was degrading and disturbing.”
Six months later, André was on his way back to Los Angeles from filming HBO’s “The Righteous Gemstones” in Charleston, S.C. He was stopped during his layover in Atlanta. The suit alleges that two officers blocked André’s path to the cabin and initiated their interrogation.
“The experience was traumatizing, degrading, and humiliating,” the suit said.
Shortly after the incident, André spoke out publicly on Twitter and during his guest spot on ” Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in April 2021.
“I’m down the little narrow awkward jet bridge, two cops appear — these two white cops on that little awkward narrow jet bridge and they whip out their badge like ‘ Hawaii 5-0’ style and they’re like, ‘Come with me,'” he recalled on the late-night show. “I’m business class so I’m the only brown person there. Clearly, they’re singling me out.”
After recounting how an officer interrogated him about drugs and whether he was “transporting crystal meth to Los Angeles,” Andre shared the response he received from Clayton County police and then- Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
On Twitter, Bottoms apologized to the “Lion King” actor for his experience at the Atlanta airport, adding that it “was not Atlanta Police Department, but another one of the many agencies working at the airport” who stopped him.
Clayton County police then issued a statement saying that the actor “voluntarily consented to a search of his luggage but the investigators chose not to do so.”
“No, that’s a lie,” he told Kimmel of the response. “That’s a bold-faced lie.”
While taking legal action, André encouraged those with similar experiences to speak out about their experience.
“Any black or brown people that have traveled the Atlanta airport that feel they’ve been racially harassed by the Clayton county police, please let us now,” he said in an Instagram post on Tuesday.
Hollywood peers rallied behind André and English in the comments section.
“holy s—. Get em Eric!,” replied Questlove.
“yoooooooo,” said “Saturday Night Live” cast member Sarah Sherman.
“Thank you,” said “The Daily Show” correspondent Dulcé Sloan.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.