UPDATED 10:03 a.m. EDT, May 8 –
The granddaughter of Bob Marley is pursuing a lawsuit against the California Police Department officers who treated her and her two friends like robbery suspects after they left an Airbnb home, the New York Daily News reported.
A viral video showed the three friends — one of which was later identified as Donisha Prendergast, a 33-year-old filmmaker and descendant of the iconic reggae singer— leaving a vacation house with luggage on April 30. The trio was accused of burglarizing the home by the Rialto Police Department officers and served them with notice of a pending lawsuit Monday.
Prendergast and her three friends were confronted by cops in seven police cars after a 911 caller said they were stealing stuff and not the home’s owners. Some of the friends’ more than 20-minute encounter with police questioning them was caught on video that was posted to Facebook.
Prendergast’s two friends were identified as Kells Fyffee Marshall and Komi-Oluwa Olafimihan.
In a world where Black people seemingly can have the cops called on them faster than Superman does a phone booth cape change, it’s important to be alert.
A group of three African-American friends recently found themselves surrounded by seven cop cars in California. What the heck happened, you ask?
Well, they walked out and locked up a house where they had stayed during an Airbnb vacation. They were putting their packed luggage into a car with happy faces. Neighbors, however, with their racist glasses, only saw they were brown-skinned people putting valuable items into the car. The cops were promptly called with the quickness because neighbors placed the stereotypical “they stole something” call.
Things went from crazy to scary for the three friends.
“The officers came out of their cars demanding us to put our hands in the air,” one of the friends identified as Kells Fyffe-Marshall posted on Facebook. “They informed us that there was also a helicopter tracking us. They locked down the neighborhood and had us standing in the street. Why? A neighbour across the street saw 3 black people packing luggage into their car and assumed we were stealing from the house. She then called the police.”
Adding insult and injury to more insult and injury, the cops’ sergeant arrived on the scene about 20 minutes into the encounter. The sergeant tried to discredit the friends as if they were liars, they wrote in the painful message about the horrible experience.
“About 20 minutes into this misunderstanding it escalated almost instantly,” Fyffe-Marshall continued. “Their Sergeant arrived… he explained they didn’t know what Airbnb was. He insisted that we were lying about it and said we had to prove it. We showed them the booking confirmations and phoned the landlord… because they didn’t know what she looked like on the other end to confirm it was her.. they detained us – because they were investigating a felony charge – for 45 minutes while they figured it out.”
These terrible experiences involving Black folks happen at alarming rates. People of color who pose no threat often have the cops called on them—actions that only play into stereotypes, perpetuate criminality patterns and cause trauma to the folks involved in the situation. These stops often produce lingering effects that cause serious damage.
“We have been dealing with different emotions and you want to laugh about this but it’s not funny,” Fyffe-Marshall wrote. “The trauma is real. I’ve been angry, frustrated and sad. I was later detained at the airport. This is insanity.”
Folks have called for justice for these friends, and it’s clear that incidents like this one must stop happening.