Donisha Prendergast, granddaughter of reggae legend Bob Marley says she was racially profiled by officers who swarmed her and two friends and plans to sue the Rialto Police Department in Southern California.
Prendergast is a 33-year-old filmmaker and was in California just over a week ago for the #WeWillRiseTogether event. She had secured an Air BnB for herself and three friends who are also black, but while they were leaving the property for check-out, Prendergast says that they were met by four officers who were supposedly responding to a call from a neighbor about a burglary.
Everything that followed was captured on film by Prendergast and at one point, she gets the property owner on the phone to explain what’s going on. “There are four police officers here,” Prendergast says in the clip. “We watched your neighbor call the police.”
Film director Kells Fyffe-Marshall who was also present detailed what happened in a Facebook post she uploaded last Tuesday. “As you can see 3 of us were Black. About 10 seconds later we were surrounded by 7 cop cars. The officers came out of their cars demanding us to put our hands in the air. They informed us that there was also a helicopter tracking us. They locked down the neighborhood and had us standing in the street. Why?” she wrote.
“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. At first, we joked about the misunderstanding and took photos and videos along the way.”
The group was also detained later on at the airport. “They were detained long enough to figure out if that was true [that they were renting an Airbnb],” Harden says. “They were allowed to move about [during the detention] and they filmed the whole thing… The officers figured out pretty quickly that this was probably an incident where they were renting a room, but they had to make sure.”
According to a rep for Prendergast, her legal team plans to announce an update on the lawsuit today. Rialto Police Department acting public information officer, Lt. Dean Harden, told Billboard that the department received notice on Monday, May 7 that there was “pending legal action,” although he wasn’t sure what action was being taken.