CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The architect of the progressive movement known as "Moral Monday" said he was removed from an American Airlines flight after he responded to a passenger who made disparaging remarks.
Rev. William Barber said he was removed from a flight to Raleigh from Washington, D.C.
According to a statement Barber released Saturday, he said he was scheduled to return to Raleigh after spending Friday in Washington, D.C. as a keynote speaker at a national interfaith event.
"I was invited to be the keynote speaker at a national interfaith event that launched the 2016 Ecumenical Advocacy Days. Like Moral Mondays, the service was to encourage all people of faith to petition directly those who have the power to reverse the immoral policies against the poor, the marginalized and the racially oppressed people in our society," Barber said in his statement.
According to Barber's statement, the passenger said he had problems with "those people" and spoke harshly about Barber having to purchase two seats on the flight.
"Because of my disability, I could not turn my head to see him, but as she left, I heard him saying distasteful and disparaging things about me. He had problems with "those people" and he spoke harshly about my need for 'two seats,' among other subjects. As I heard these things, I became more and more uncomfortable, especially since he was behind me," Barber said in his statement.
Barber said he stood up and turned around to address the man before the flight crew gave safety instructions but was asked to leave before the flight took off.
"This took place before the plane’s crew gave safety instructions. I do not know who made the decision, but a plane official apparently called the police, who came to my seat and said, 'Sir you need to leave the plane.' I left. The American Airlines team at the desk was very gracious. Many said they were concerned and some said they did not agree with the decision," Barber said.
The passenger said he was frustrated when Barber asked a flight attendant to tell him to be quiet, and began speaking louder.
That's when Barber stood up and spoke to the man directly.
"At this time, the stewardess had already walked up and asked him (Barber) to please sit down, back in his seat,” the passenger said. “He grabbed her wrist and she immediately backed away, and he sat down."
The plane returned to the gate and Barber was escorted off.
The passenger admitted he started to talk a little louder and said he could have handled the situation better.
An American Airlines spokesman said Barber's flight turned around before it took off from Reagan National Airport.
"The Moral Fusion Movement must focus our attention on weightier matters. The struggle against the hatred and fear take priority over matters of my comfort and convenience. I merely want to be treated fairly," Barber said.
American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said Sunday that a passenger who didn't follow crew instructions was removed from a flight. He said the passenger also grabbed a flight attendant but was allowed to travel the next morning on an American flight.
When asked why a passenger who grabbed a flight attendant would be allowed on another plane, Miller said "each situation is unique. It was a cordial situation beyond that one incident so there was no further concern from our perspective."
Airport police said no one was arrested.
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