A group of three African American filmmakers who were vacationing at an Airbnb rental home in Rialto, California say they were surrounded by police and detained after a white neighbor called the police. She told the police that she was concerned about a group of Black people who were taking luggage out of a house.
The women had not committed any crime of any sort, and Kells Fyffe-Marshall, one of the women in the group, says the incident left her “angry, upset and frustrated.”
She wrote on her Facebook page: “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.”
She continued, “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.”
Another one of the women, Donisha Prendergast, who happens to be Bob Marley’s daughter, also posted a video recording the incident on her Instagram account.
Airbnb has since issued the following public statement addressing the unfortunate incident:
Last week, after becoming aware of the issue, we reached out to the victims of this terrible incident to express our sympathy and full 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.
“Airbnb’s mission is to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere and we have aggressively worked to fight bias and discrimination in society. We encourage anyone in similar situations to contact us. We are also reaching out to our partners at the NAACP, National Action Network, Color Of Change, and others to discuss this matter and ensure we are doing all we can to protect our community when they travel. While we do fundamentally believe in the power of travel to break down historic barriers and have faith in our fellow humans, we will continue to do all we can to make sure our Guests feel like they belong when they travel to different communities around the world.”
Watch the footage below from Instagram: