A disabled civil rights leader was escorted out of an AMC theater in Greenville, North Carolina, by police over his disability accommodations earlier this week.
On Tuesday, Rev. William J. Barber II, 60, and his 90-year-old mother went to see ‘The Color Purple.’ Barber brought his own chair to the theater because he has a rare form of arthritis known as ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory disease that makes it hard for him to sit in or rise from low chairs. Barber said he placed his chair in a section for guests with disabilities, but theater employees deemed it a “fire hazard,” he said during a press conference Friday.
“Our plans were interrupted when the managers of the AMC theater here in Greenville chose to call the police rather than accommodate my visible disability,” he said.
According to NBC News, a Greenville police supervisor arrived at the theater after receiving a call about trespassing and a patron who was “arguing with employees, and they wished to have them removed from the business.”
During the press conference, Barber emphasized how using words like “arguing” and “trespassing” to describe a Black man “could have had bad results in the wrong hands.” While he believes it “should have never been a police escalation situation,” the former president of the North Carolina NAACP said that the police officer handled it well upon arrival.
In a video posted on Facebook the same day of the incident, Barber can be heard agreeing to leave the theater after being asked to by the officer. Just outside of the theater, Barber is seen shaking the officer’s hand, who later apologized to Barber at the end of the video. As the minister left the building, he repeated that his chair has gone with him to places such as the White House and Broadway shows.
The chief of the Greenville Police Department reached out to Barber asking to meet him and talk about the situation, Barber said during the press conference. The department did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
According to ABC11, AMC apologized to Barber on Wednesday and said it plans to review its policies to “ensure that situations like this do not occur again.”
“We sincerely apologize to Bishop Barber for how he was treated, and for the frustration and inconvenience brought to him, his family, and his guests,” the statement read.
“AMC welcomes guests with disabilities. We have a number of accommodations in place at our theatres at all times, and our theatre teams work hard to accommodate guests who have needs that fall outside of the normal course of business. We encourage guests who require special seating to speak with a manager in advance to see what can best be accommodated at the theater to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for the guest and those around them.”
During the press conference, Barber said he forgave AMC Theatres and will not be pressing charges. He also has plans to meet with AMC Chairman and CEO Adam Aron next week in Greenville to discuss the situation.
“We plan to talk extensively,” Barber said.