Local News

NC NAACP president removed from flight before takeoff

Posted April 16, 2016
Updated April 28, 2016

— The president of the North Carolina NAACP was escorted off an American Airlines flight Friday night.

Rev. William Barber was returning to Raleigh from Washington, D.C., when, he says, he was removed from the flight. Barber was scheduled to return after spending Friday in Washington, D.C. as a keynote speaker at a national interfaith event that launched the 2016 Ecumenical Advocacy Days, according to a statement released Saturday afternoon.

"Like Moral Mondays, the service was to encourage all people of faith to petition directly those who have the power to reverse the immoral policies against the poor, the marginalized and the racially oppressed people in our society," Barber said.

An American Airlines spokesman said Barber's flight turned around before it took off from Reagan National Airport. Barber, however, says the plane never left the gate.

Matt Miller, a spokesperson for American Airlines, explained this confusion. "The plane moved away from the gate and came back. The wheels pushed back from the gate a short distance but came back to the gate."

Barber said a passenger in a seat nearby was talking loudly as the plane filled up and asked the stewardess to request the passenger lower his voice. After requesting assistance from the flight attendant, Barber said he overheard the nearby passenger making "distasteful" and "disparaging" comments about him.

According to Barber's statement, the passenger said he had problems with "those people" and spoke harshly about Barber having to purchase two seats on the plane.

Barber said he stood up and turned around to address the man before the flight crew gave safety instructions but was asked to leave before the flight took off.

"As I heard these things, I became more and more uncomfortable, especially since he was behind me," Barber said. "The attitude with which he spoke, and my experiences with others who have directed similar harsh, sometimes threatening words, emails, and calls at me, came to my mind. Because he was behind me when he made the comments and because of my disability, the only way I could see him when I tried to speak to him as one human being to another was to stand and turn around."

Airport police said no one was arrested.

"I do not know who made the decision, but a plane official apparently called the police, who came to my seat and said, 'Sir you need to leave the plane.'" Barber said.

Barber said the American Airline employees and police officers involved were "very gracious."

"To those of you who were worried about me, I am fine, physically. Yes, I am not at all happy about what I believe were the real reasons I was the one asked to leave," Barber said. "My training and experiences with non-violent civil disobedience, and my deep faith, however, made my decision to peacefully comply with the order to get off the plane an easy one."


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  • John Malcholm Apr 22, 2016
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    I see the reverend doesn't have a big issue with the second of the deadly sins.

  • Victoria Clark Apr 19, 2016
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    Sorry they didn't lock you up!!! I've never seen such an ignorant racist man in my life. Well almost there's Sharpton. Every time I see this clown it's about race. Maybe if you spent your life not being a racist you would really live a much happier and stress free life.

  • Matt Nickeson Apr 19, 2016
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    Comparing Barber to MLK? I have no words.

  • Bill Mooney Apr 18, 2016
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    It's good to see the person seated behind him admitted that he was out of line and would apologize to Barber if given the chance. Barber was traveling between interfaith religious events and people here still call him a "trouble maker" and a circus fatty. MLK was a similar "trouble maker", thank God.

  • Steve Moore Apr 18, 2016
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    Regardless of who said what.....when that circus fatty grabbed the wrist of the stewardess....he was booted off the flight.

  • Chance Loria Apr 18, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    Perhaps he would not listen to the flight attendant and grabbed her arm? No perhaps about it. That's what the news is stating coming out of Washington. It seems he left a bit out of his story. Funny how when he's at fault he can't even fess up to it. He has to twist it so he's the victim.

    Once again using common sense prevailed. Anybody who who has ever been on a plane knows full well they don't turn planes around on a whim.

  • Shandy Scott Apr 17, 2016
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    In Barber's typical fashion here comes the race card!!!

  • Phillip Mozingo Apr 17, 2016
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    Based on the comments from the other guy I think Mr. Barber could have handled this differently. He screwed up when he grabbed the wrist of a stewardess. That was the foul that got him removed. http://abc11.com/news/passenger-involved-in-barber-flight-removal-speaks-out/1295908/

  • Betsy Sparks Apr 17, 2016
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    According to Yahoo, Barber has a bone-fusion arthritic disability and has to buy two seats. He stood up to talk to the guy because his disability kept him from turning around. The guy was making comments about Barber needing 2 seats and some other stuff. Seems like he was asked to leave because he stood up, even though the other guy was the instigator.

  • Ray Mccrary Apr 17, 2016
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    no doubt AA will have BLM posters put up on flights now with cowering whites on ads.
    sheesh. this guys a j*rk. he just needed some tv face time.