African-Americans have become alarmed recently by recent reports of police being summoned by white Americans to apprehend innocent black people.
Two of the most recent cases involved a black Yale University who fell asleep while studying, and three black women leaving an Airbnb in California.
The incident involving the black guests leaving the Airbnb rental in California has piqued the interest of Caribbean-Americans in particular because the impacted guests included Donisha Prendergast, the granddaughter of late Jamaican and international reggae icon, Bob Marley.
Black women targeted as criminal suspects
According to reports, Prendergast, a filmmaker and motivational speaker, and three female black colleagues, including Nigerian-Canadian visual artist Komi-Oluwa Olafimihan, and filmmaker Kelly Fyffe-Marshal, and an unnamed white woman, where leaving an Airbnb rental in Rialto, California on April 30th.
They were seen leaving by a white female resident who waved to them in greeting. However, when no one in the group waved back at the resident, she suspected them to be criminals and summoned the Rialto police.
Detained by police
When the police came, they temporarily detained the three black women, although they explained and provided proof they had rented the Airbnb.
Retained prominent black attorneys
In the aftermath of the incident, according to another report in the Jamaican Gleaner, Prendergast has retained attorneys to represent her and her two black associates in a pending lawsuit against the Rialto Police Department, which claims the women were victims of racial profiling.
Prendergast’s legal team includes civil-rights attorneys Jasmine Rand of Rand Law, L.L.C., a Miami-based civil litigation firm located in Coral Gables, and Benjamin Crump of Ben Crump Law, who formerly represented the families of the late Michael Brown, and South Florida’s Trayvon Martin.
According to documents submitted to The Gleaner by Prendergast’s legal team, the three black women were lawfully present at the Airbnb property, and not involved in any criminal activity when called by the white woman.
Motivated by race
The team further claims that the police action was “motivated by race” fueled by the neighbor who called the police claiming: “Three black people were stealing stuff.”
The documents cited Marley’s granddaughter and the two other women, were surrounded by several police vehicles, while a helicopter hovered above and further revealed that the officers told the women they were under investigation for the commission of a felony and were being detained.
Emphasizing that the detention of the three black women were motivated by race, the submitted documents according to the Gleaner, also cited that while the white neighbor complained that three black women were “removing stuff” from the Airbnb, there was a fourth woman who was white.
As reported in the Gleaner, the legal documents states: “This incident was undeniably motivated by the neighbor’s explicit racial bias and the police department’s perpetuation of that bias.”
White associate not branded a suspect
“There were not three people checking out of Airbnb, there were four. The fourth person was a white woman. A Rialto Police Department officer is clearly heard on video saying that the caller identified ‘three suspicious black people stealing stuff.’ Apparently, the neighbor did not find the same actions of the fourth person – a white woman – ‘suspicious’,” the statement added.
In a statement to the media, Prendergast was reported as saying: “The whole experience was surreal. Cop cars rushing in and surrounding our vehicle, closing in on us with their hands on their holsters and ordering us to put our hands up. I’m a filmmaker, and I had seen this movie too many times in America. I watched the ending of Michael Brown. He put his hands up and they fired. I kept my hands down. As a Rastafari woman, no matter what they did to my flesh, I ensured my spirit and dignity would survive.”
Chose not to put her hands up
She added: “I chose not to put my hands up, and I lived. This was wrong, and I knew I had the right to be right. When I told my grandma what happened and she watched the video, she had tears in her eyes, and she said: ‘Make sure you tell them you are doing this for grandma, too’.”