WASHINGTON, D.C. — North Carolina NAACP President William Barber was removed from a flight in Washington D.C. Friday night after a dispute with another passenger.
It happened just after 10 p.m. at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
American Airlines Flight 5382 was scheduled to take off for Raleigh-Durham International around 10:20 p.m. when a spokesperson with the airlines said that prior to departure, the captain called for the flight to return to the gate for a disruptive passenger.
The airline said the passenger was escorted off the plane at the gate.
Barber said he was returning from a national interfaith event in Washington, D.C. where he was the keynote speaker.
“My job Friday evening was to remind us of the similar moral teachings of great religions — love your neighbor, do justice and walk humbly with God,” Barber told NAACP officials.
Barber also said he was “bone tired” as he boarded the plane and had sat down in the two seats he purchased due to a bone fusion arthritic disability.
“A passenger in a seat near me was talking loudly as the plane filled up,” Barber said.
He said he requested a flight attendant to ask the man “to bring it down a bit.”
“But as she left, I heard him saying distasteful and disparaging things about me,” Barber said. “He had problems with ‘those people’ and he spoke harshly about my need for “two seats among other subjects.”
According to Barber, he stood up to speak to the other passenger because his disability made it difficult to turn around.
“As I heard these things, I became more and more uncomfortable,” Barber said. “Because he was behind me … and because of my disability, the only way I could see he when I tried to speak to him as one human being to another was to stand and turn around.”
That is when the police were called and asked him to leave, according to Barber, the architect of the progressive movement known as “Moral Monday.”
The airline said when the decision to return to the gate was made, the plane had pushed back from the gate and was taxiing to the runway. Barber said it all happened before the plane’s crew gave safety instructions.
“Virtually all the police officers and American employees were gracious to me,” Barber said. “Some were openly troubled by the decision to force me to spend another night away from home.”
“They were genuinely concerned, some even bothered,” he added. “They also assisted me immediately in getting another flight on the same airline.”
The airline would not comment on whether the incident was verbal or physical.
The flight departed 45 minutes late and arrived at RDU at 11:58 p.m.
Barber spent the night in Washington and said airline officials “graciously helped” him re-board for another flight on Saturday.