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Black women at Airbnb face police after neighbors calling 911



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You have discontinued your Airbnb rental. They loaded their suitcases in the car. Then they found themselves surrounded by police.

Moments earlier, a neighbor had watched as the three black women carried their luggage from the Rialto, Calif, home. She did not recognize the guests as homeowners, so she called the police for a possible burglary, told the police. The police responded as usual to a report of an ongoing burglary and dispatched six policemen and a helicopter with the aim of avoiding the fencing of the house, which made it difficult for the criminals to escape. Rianto Police Lt. Dean Hardin

The April 30 incident is the latest example of law enforcement actions called by a company or individual to deal with minorities who simply go about their day. Last month, two black men were arrested for trespassing in Philadelphia after a Starbucks employee called the police for failing to buy anything. Last week, two Native American brothers were picked up by a Colorado State University tour after a parent told a 911 dispatcher that their behavior was "strange" and that their dark attire had "strange symbolism or wording."

A video of the Rialto incident became viral this week. On Monday, police said in a press release that they had received a lawsuit on behalf of the guests: Donisha Prendergast, a filmmaker and a granddaughter of Bob Marley; Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, also a filmmaker; and Komi-Oluwa Olafimihan, an artist. The group visited Rialto for an event.

The Airbnb guests and police tell various stories of what happened after the police arrived at 12:36 at the West Loma Vista Drive house. The guests recorded it on their cell phones and then posted the videos on social media. Police say the officers wore body cameras that provided "accurate and unprocessed" footage and said the department was confident that the police involved treated guests with "dignity, respect, and professionalism," the press release said.

Prendergast wrote on Instagram that she and the guests were "surrounded by police because they are black in a white neighborhood."

"I am saddened and irritated to see that fear is still the first place police officers persecute and protect, to the point where the protocol abolishes their ability to have insight," she wrote ,

Olafimihan wrote on Instagram that "more than 700 people who looked exactly like me did not go away from a situation like last year."

Fyffe-Marshall wrote on Instagram when the police arrived, calling for them Guests set their hands up and informed them that a helicopter was following them.

"They locked up the neighbor's ood and left us standing on the street, why? A neighbor across the street saw three black people packing luggage into their car and assuming we were stealing out of the house," wrote you.

Fyffe-Marshall wrote that about 20 minutes after the encounter, the misunderstanding "almost immediately" escalated.

"Your sergeant has arrived," she wrote. "He explained that they did not know what Airbnb was, he insisted that we lie about it and said we had to prove it, showed them the booking confirmations and called the landlord."

"Because they did not know as she looked on the other end to confirm that it was her … they detained us, "Fyffe-Marshall wrote, adding that the officials had investigated the incident as a possible crime for 45 minutes. She added that the neighbor called the police because the guests had failed to watch her while they were loading their luggage into the car.

Fyffe-Marshall did not respond to a request from the post office for a comment. Prendergast's manager, Patricia Scarlett, told Mercury News that requests for interviews will be postponed until Prendergast's lawyer can release a press release and a longer version of the viral video.

Hardin, the police lieutenant, said the officers had arrived at the house, they "quickly realized" that no break-in was underway. He said officers canceled their request for a helicopter and spent a total of 22 minutes verifying that the guests were legally staying with the rental.

"Then we sent them on their way," he said. "We felt that our officers were acting professionally, we thought it was a good outcome for all involved, we did not handcuff anyone … we did not restrict their movement, they were allowed to walk around, we just barricaded them enough To find out if they are lawful in this house, no force was used. "

Hardin confirmed that guests were asked to show their hands to the officers if they wore weapons and confirmed that one of the officers Did not know what Airbnb was, but "was quickly trained by the officers" He added that officers learned that the residence was an unlicensed Airbnb.

But Rialto's police do not think the April 30th encounter had anything to do with race.

"Unfortunately, when we get a call from something that kind of meaning – a burglary in the works – we have to respond," said Hardin. "As far as the racial aspect is concerned, I do not believe that this is even a factor in this reputation, we react to what we are told, and we will be neglected if we do not respond."

The owner of the Rialto House where the guests stayed, Marie Rodriguez, told the Mercury News that she was shocked at how the encounter was presented online.

They make it seem like it's racially motivated, and it has nothing to do with it, "she said," It's all over the social media. "

Airbnb has faced discrimination issues in the past, but these concerns typically pertained to people renting their real estate and the company published a 32-page report on its anti-discrimination plans in 2016 and worked to provide for more minority groups.

"The fact that this neighbor is not a member of the Airbnb community was, does not change what happened to our guests is unscrupulous and reminds us how far we still have to go as a society, "said Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas in a statement to The Post Monday.

He said the company turned to the guests

"We believe in the power of travel to break down historic barriers and to have faith in our fellow human beings, but we will continue to do everything we can to make our guests feel like they are traveling to different communities around the world, "wrote Papas.

Fyffe-Marshall in her post about the incident called it traumatic.

"We were dealing with different emotions and you want to laugh about it & # 39; that's not funny," she wrote. "I was angry, frustrated and sad I was later detained at the airport This is madness."

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