California's Rialto Police Department has received notice of legal action by three black people, who were swarmed in a California neighborhood, after a report was made accusing the group of looting April 30.
The group, which included Donisha Prendergast – filmmaker and granddaughter of reggae icon Bob Marley, were leaving an Airbnb rental in the San Bernardino County city when the vehicle they occupied was surrounded by seven police vehicles. Law enforcement officers reportedly placed the community on lockdown and informed the group that they were also being tracked by a helicopter.
“I’m still trying to fully digest the what, why and how of this,” Prendergast, wrote on social media. “I also am deeply meditating on the why not. Why this should not have happened. Why they should not have reacted with such unnecessary force… Why this is not a simple misunderstanding. Why this neighbor who was so fearful without any justified reason, should not have the power to potentially destroy another life because of the color of her skin."
Prendergast is the daughter of Sharon Marley, who was a member of multiple Grammy Award-winning Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers band, and former FIFA referee Peter Prendergast.
Rialto Police Lt. Dean Hardin told CNN that an elderly white woman called the police saying she did not recognize the women as being her neighbors.
According to another member of the group, filmmaker Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, they were instructed to put their hands in the air and stand in the street. Fyffe-Marshall explained on social media that the officers told the group that a neighbor across the street called police after seeing the three transferring their luggage from the residence to a vehicle.
“A neighbor 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,” Fyffe-Marshall wrote. “At first we joked about the misunderstanding and took photos and videos along the way. About 20 minutes into this misunderstanding it escalated almost instantly.”
Fyffe-Marshall explained that they showed the sergeant their Airbnb reservation upon his arrival as well as contacted the landlord in his presence, but the sergeant claimed to not know what an Airbnb was and insisted the renter appear in person.
“We have been dealing with different emotions and you want to laugh about this but it’s not funny. The trauma is real. I’ve been angry, frustrated and sad,” Fyffe-Marshall wrote in the post. “I was later detained at the airport. This is insanity.”
Fyffe-Marshall said they were detained for 45 minutes while officers clarify the situation. According to CNN, Fyffe-Marshall stated the group's attorney advised them not to comment at this time.
Be Love. So much things to say right now.... Got surrounded by the police for being black in a white neighbourhood. Smh. I’m sad and irritated to see that fear is still the first place police officers go in their pursuit to serve and protect, to the point that protocol supersedes their ability to have discernment. Many have suffered and died in moments like these. That’s a crazy reality check. Give Thanks for life, and the ability to stand our ground. We are stronger together. Use your voice collectively. #unafraid #mightcannotdefeatright #wewillrizetogether #buildcomeunity #strongertogether #useyourvoice #eachoneteach We have a right to be right. @iamdonisha @directedbykells @ahutchphoto @komiolaf
“We cannot remove ourselves from situations that continue to implicate our brothers and sisters in a spiritual, physical, emotional and psychological war,” Prendergast said. “It is the inaction of those who could have and didn’t that has left our world in the state it is today. Our blood is shared, so are our joys and pains. When the rain falls, it doesn’t just fall on one man’s housetop … So don’t you forget who you are and where you stand in the struggle,” Prendergast further stated about her experience.
A third person of color, Komi-Oluwa Olafimihan, is also listed in the legal notice.
Airbnb reached out to the group to offer support, according to a statement to the New York Post.
The company has also said it was in contact the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), National Action Network, Color of Change and other organizations to discuss the incident and “ensure we are doing all we can to protect our community when they travel.”
The incident is one of several that have occurred across the United States involving people of color being arrested or detained without just cause.
Last month, two black men were arrested after a Philadelphia Starbucks employee called the police because they had delayed placing an order while waiting for a client.