California

3 black women were leaving an Airbnb. A neighbor thought they were stealing, police say

A screenshot from a video taken by Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, a woman who was detained by police in Rialto, California, when a neighbor thought Fyffe-Marshall and two other black women were stealing from an Airbnb.
A screenshot from a video taken by Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, a woman who was detained by police in Rialto, California, when a neighbor thought Fyffe-Marshall and two other black women were stealing from an Airbnb.

Three black women leaving an Airbnb in Southern California last week were stopped by police — because a neighbor thought they were stealing.

One of the women detained, filmmaker Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, said in posts on Instagram and Facebook on April 30 that she and two other women were leaving their Airbnb in Rialto, California, when seven police cars showed up.

"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," she wrote. "They locked down the neighborhood and had us standing in the street."

STORY TIME: During our time in Cali we have been staying at an Airbnb. The 30th was our second morning and at about 11am we checked out. The four of us packed our bags, locked up the house and left. 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? A neighbour 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. About 20 minutes into this misunderstanding it escalated almost instantly. Their Sergeant arrived... he explained they didn’t know what Airbnb was. He insisted that we were lying about it and said we had to prove it. We showed them the booking confirmations and phoned the landlord... because they didn’t know what she looked like on the other end to confirm it was her.. they detained us - because they were investigating a felony charge - for 45 minutes while they figured it out. He made me show my ID and made it clear I was being tagged. 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, fustrated and sad. This is insanity. The cops admit that the woman’s reason for calling the police was because we didn’t WAVE to her as she looked at us putting our luggage into our car from her lawn. But they pulled over three filmmakers! We documented it all!!!!! #wedidntwave #arighttoberight #racialprofiling #privilege #rightourstories #therevolution #whenyoupulloverfilmmakers @shaunking @amandaseales @iamdonisha @komiolaf @ahutchphoto

A post shared by Kelly Fyffe-Marshall (@directedbykells) on

Fyffe-Marshall wrote that a neighbor called the police because she saw black people putting luggage in a car and believed they were stealing.

When a police sergeant arrived 20 minutes later, he insisted the women were lying and asked for proof, Fyffe-Marshall wrote.

"We showed them the booking confirmations and phoned the landlord...because they didn't know what she looked like on the other end to confirm it was her...they detained us," she wrote.

Fyffe-Marshall also said police admitted that the neighbor called police because the women didn't wave to her as they were loading their luggage into the car.

"The trauma is real," she wrote. "I've been angry, frustrated and sad. This is insanity."

Donisha Prendergast, one of the other women detained, posted her own video of the incident on Instagram.

"Got surrounded by police for being black in a white neighbourhood," she wrote. "I'm sad and irritated."

Prendergast is the granddaughter of famed musician Bob Marley, according to Fortune.

Rialto police confirmed in a news release that they were called to a potential residential burglary on West Loma Vista Drive on April 30.

"The reporting party identified several people taking suitcases from the residence and loading into a vehicle that was backed into the driveway," police said. "The reporting party did not recognize the vehicle or the people as neighbors, or the homeowner."

Police said the encounter lasted 22 minutes.

"At no time during the encounter did officers use any form of restraints with the involved people and actually allowed them to exit their vehicle and assist officers in locating the owner of the unlicensed Airbnb to confirm there had been no crime committed," police said.

As well, Rialto police Lt. Dean Hardin told The Associated Press that it is standard for a helicopter to respond to a report of a residential burglary in progress.

Police added that the department was served on Monday with a notification of impending legal action on behalf of the three women.

The department said officers were wearing body cameras at the time and that they were "confident officers treated the involved individuals with dignity, respect and professionalism."

The encounter sparked outrage on social media.

"This is absolutely unacceptable & I'm so sad (and livid) that you had to go through this," read one comment on Instagram.

"They wouldn't have detained you if you weren't Black. Period," read another comment.

In a statement to the New York Post, Airbnb representatives said the company reached out to the women last week to offer support.

"Based on what we've learned and consistent with the various news reports, this incident appears to be an issue involving a neighbor, but the fact that this neighbor was not a member of the Airbnb community doesn't change the fact that what happened to our guests is unconscionable and a reminder of how far we still have to go as a society," the company said in their statement to the Post.

Airbnb has been involved in racial discrimination incidents before. A host was banned from Airbnb in 2017 after an Asian American guest said her reservation was canceled because of her race, The Washington Post reported. The cabin was in Running Springs, California. 

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