AMC Theaters apologized to the Rev. William J. Barber II, a civil rights leader, after he was escorted from a Greenville, North Carolina, theater after employees refused to allow him to use a chair he needs to control a painful medical condition. saying.
Barber, 60, was attending a screening of “The Color Purple” Tuesday afternoon with her mother, Eleanor Barber, 90. She said she attempted to use the chair, which an assistant was bringing to her, placing it in a reserved area. for handicapped seating, saying she had done it before in theaters, in Broadway plays and even on a visit to the White House.
He said a theater employee told him he wouldn’t be able to use the chair, which looks like a small stool, because it didn’t meet Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines.
The employees then called Greenville police and told them they wanted Mr. Barber to leave or be charged with criminal trespassing, according to Mr. Barber, who shared a video of the encounter with The New York Times.
Barber said he agreed to leave the theater and that no charges had been filed. The video shows a police officer escorting him out of the theater, thanking him for his cooperation and apologizing “for how this turned out.”
His mother stayed and watched the movie with an assistant, he said.
“I just wanted to go see the movie with my mom,” Barber said.
In a statement issued to a local news station, the AMC movie theater chain said it “apologizes to Bishop Barber for how he was treated and for the frustration and inconvenience caused to him, his family and his guests.”
Both the statement and Barber said that AMC CEO Adam Aron had spoken with Barber by phone and that the two planned to meet in Greenville next week.
Neither AMC Theaters nor the Greenville Police Department responded to requests for comment.
Mr. Barber has a condition called ankylosing spondyloarthritis, and walks slowly with the help of a cane. He said the disease attacks his joints “like a guided missile” and has forced him to live with chronic pain for nearly 40 years. “I describe it that way because it is a war to live with,” he said.
She added that people with disabilities often fight invisible battles that can be difficult for people who do not live with disabilities to understand.
“Disabled people have a right to come forward,” Barber said. “Period.”
Mr Barber said he was grateful that Mr Aron had immediately come forward and apologised, and that he was looking forward to their meeting.
“I’ve had very positive conversations with him and the police chief,” he said, adding that he didn’t think the police would even want to get involved.
Maria Town, president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities, an organization that advocates for the rights of people with disabilities, said she found the theater staff’s response “simply baffling.”
“People with disabilities face a lot of discrimination every day,” Ms. Town said. “They run into so many types of physical barriers that by law shouldn’t exist.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act, signed in 1990, is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination in several areas and largely requires accommodations in public accommodations. “And that’s what movie theaters are,” Town said.
Barber rose to national prominence in the 2010s after leading protests against a North Carolina voter ID law later ruled by a federal appeals court. shot downcalled it an unconstitutional effort to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
Barber, former head of the North Carolina NAACP, is a regular at rallies, marches and civil disobedience actions. He said he was allowed to use his chair in numerous theaters and other places, including in jail after being arrested at protests.