Three black artists, including Donisha Prendergast — the eldest granddaughter of reggae legend Bob Marley — detained by police in Rialto, California, as they left an Airbnb rental in a predominantly white neighborhood demanded on Thursday a criminal investigation into the white neighbor who called the cops on them.
"There was an individual that placed this racist call with false allegations to the Rialto Police Department on April 30. And we want her held accountable," said attorney Jasmine Rand, who along with Benjamin Crump is representing the three women.
Prendergast, an activist and artist, filmmaker Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, and Afrofuturist artist Komi-Oluwa Olafimihan attended the Kaya Fest in nearby San Bernardino and stayed at an Airbnb for two nights, along with a white photographer friend.
As the four left on April 30, a neighbor called the police and reported a suspected robbery, after they didn't wave hello at her as they placed their suitcases in their car. The identity of the neighbor is not public.
Police cars and a helicopter responded, Rand said. She said police told her clients a neighbor had reported three black people acting suspiciously.
Police detained them for 20 to 45 minutes, the lawyers said.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday in Harlem, Fyffe-Marshall recounted how they showed police their Airbnb booking and messages with the host on the app — which showed the address of the home — and that police wouldn't believe them.
Even when the Airbnb host was called and speaking to police on the phone, police doubted her identity.
Video posted by Fyffe-Marshall to Instagram shows a police officer telling them that someone reported "there's three black people stealing stuff."
"The reporting party did not recognize the vehicle or the people as neighbors, or the homeowner," according to a statement from the Rialto Police Department.
Fyffe-Marshall also said at the news conference that they were part of a wave of high-profile stories involving white people calling the police on black people for doing everyday things — and that it was time they were held accountable.
"From what happened in the Waffle House to what happened in the Yale dorms, all the things that are coming up, it's getting out of hand, and now it seems as a black person you can't live," said Fyffe-Marshall.
Prendergast had been a guest speaker at the Kaya Fest, which also included performances by Lauryn Hill, Ziggy Marley, and Damian Marley.
Despite news reports that the three are suing the Rialto Police Department, their attorneys said they had not yet filed a lawsuit but instead requested all the evidence, body camera footage, and information available about the incident.
Rand and Crump are known for their representation of high-profile civil rights cases, including the families of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Tamir Rice.
Police didn't respond to a request for comment on if they are pursuing the neighbor who made the call. In its press release about the event, it applauded the actions of its officers.
"In this matter, officers followed departmental policies and producers in handling this reported in-progress residential burglar call and we are very appreciate of the cooperation shown by its residents and visitors," it read.
In a press conference with the Rialto Police Department earlier this week, the Airbnb host and homeowner — who was not identified — said she was glad her neighbor called police.
"I applaud her for that. I went over to her home after I got home from work and thanked her," she said.
"If the kids had simply smiled at [my neighbor] and waved back and acknowledged her and said, 'We're just Airbnb guests checking out,' none of this would have ever happened," she said. "But instead, they were rude, unkind, not polite."
The trio's lawyer vehemently disagreed during on Thursday's press conference.
"We don't want to live in an America where black people are forced to smile at white people to preserve their lives," Rand said.
Damian Marley's name was misspelled in a previous version of this post.