Plane Forced to Turn Around to Remove ‘Disruptive’ NAACP President

Rev. William Barber, President of the North Carolina branch of the NAACP, speaks to protestors as they march around the executive mansion to demonstrate against voting law changes by the state's Republican-led legislature. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome

North Carolina NAACP President William Barber was removed from a flight in Washington, D.C., Friday night after he was deemed a “disruptive passenger” by an American Airlines pilot.

Barber (pictured) wrote in a statement that he had boarded the plane and was sitting in the two seats he had purchased when he overheard a man sitting behind him talking loudly. Barber says after he asked a flight attended to ask the man to lower his voice, that’s when the altercation started.

“But as she left, I heard him saying distasteful and disparaging things about me,” Barber said in the statement. “He had problems with ‘those people’ and he spoke harshly about my need for ‘two seats,’ among other subjects.”

Barber says he purchased two seat because of a physical disability, the same ailment that caused him to stand up instead of simply turning his head to confront the passenger behind him.

“I asked him why he was saying such things, and I said he did not know me, my condition, and I added I would pray for him,” Barber said.

The police were called and Barber was escorted off the plane.

“Virtually all the police officers and American employees were gracious to me. Some were openly troubled by the decision to force me to spend another night away from home,” Barber said.

The longtime head of the North Carolina NAACP also noted that he has instructed his legal counsel to investigate why he was asked to be removed from the plane.

“I chose to abide by the request without challenge and to address later the issues, interpretations around what precipitated it, as well as my response and my treatment,” Barber said. “I have turned this over to my counsel who have advised me, as is protocol, to speak with them first before any other statements are made. My prayer as always is fairness.”

The American Airlines flight eventually departed 45 minutes late.

Last January, it was Barber’s North Carolina chapter of the NAACP that urged voters in that state’s primary to head to the polls and vote even if they didn’t have the required photo ID.

Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter @jeromeehudson


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