N.C. civil rights leader sues American Airlines over being removed from flight

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) – The leader of North Carolina’s NAACP has filed a lawsuit against American Airlines, saying he was removed from a flight earlier this year because he is black.

The Rev. William Barber alleges in the lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, that he was unfairly removed from an American flight from Reagan National Airport to Raleigh-Durham International Airport in April.

Barber said he asked a flight attendant to ask two white passengers who were talking loudly in the row behind him to quiet down. The white passenger responded that he had a problem with “those people” and made fun of Barber for purchasing two seats, according to the lawsuit.

Barber alleges in the lawsuit that the confrontation had dissipated when police officers boarded the plane and had him removed at American’s request. The white passenger was allowed to remain on board.

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According to the lawsuit, a black American employee who rebooked Barber on a flight the next day told Barber that “this tends to happen a lot” and expressed frustration with the airline.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages and changes at the airline.

Barber, a pastor in Goldsboro, North Carolina, brought the crowd to its feet when he spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. He is also the organizer of a progressive protest movement in North Carolina known as “Moral Mondays.”

The airline declined comment Thursday, citing the ongoing litigation, but said it does not tolerate discrimination.

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When the incident was first reported in April, an American spokesman did not identify Barber by name but said a passenger who didn’t follow crew instructions and grabbed a flight attendant was removed from a flight.