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HomeGeneralCivil Rights Leader Bounced From North Carolina Movie Theater for Insisting to...

Civil Rights Leader Bounced From North Carolina Movie Theater for Insisting to Use His Chair

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A picture of Rev. William Barber II
Source: Pinterest

A North Carolina civil rights leader claims police escorted him out of a movie theater for insisting on using his chair for medical reasons. According to reports, the incident occurred in Greenville during a showing of “The Color Purple.” 

The 60-year-old leader, Rev. William Barber II, said he tried to use a unique chair in the disabled section. However, the staff at the Greenville Theater said he couldn’t do that. The former NAACP North Carolina chapter president revealed he has a medical condition.

According to reports, he suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, a disabling bone disease. Consequently, he can’t sit in a regular chair. In addition, he said he walks with two canes, and his assistant carries a unique chair everywhere he goes.

However, this allegation has prompted an apology from the nation’s largest movie theater chain. Barber leads a nonprofit called Repairers of the Breach. It focuses on issues including voter suppression and poverty. In addition, he co-chairs the national Poor People’s Campaign.

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During an hour-long news conference, Barber spoke in support of people with disabilities. He also mentioned the need for businesses to provide the accommodations required under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Barber noted that if he cannot sit in his chair in a theater, others with disabilities suffer such a fate. 

While recounting the experience, Barber said managers at the AMC theater were not understanding. He said they asked an armed security guard and local police officers to remove him from the theater. In addition, Barber said he agreed to leave after the officers threatened to close down the theater and arrest him.

According to a video of the incident, the chair is a stool-type chair with a backrest and no arms. “I’ve used this chair everywhere,” Barber said. “Broadway, the White House, I’ve never had a problem.” While expressing his feelings about the situation, Barber noted that he felt unheard.

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“I felt like I wasn’t heard,” Barber said. “It felt as though they weren’t even trying to consider making accommodations for my disability,” he added. Also, Barber said he left his 90-year-old mother behind with an assistant to watch the film. The incident video shows Barber talking to an officer before leaving the theater.

“This is not about me, though it happened to me personally,” he said. “This is about systemic changes, policy changes (and) training to ensure this happens to no one.” Following Barber’s claims, AMC apologized in a written statement. 

The Theater said it welcomes and works hard to accommodate guests with disabilities. “We are also reviewing our policies with our theater teams,” the statement said. “To help ensure situations like this do not occur again.” The company also encouraged guests requiring seating accommodations to speak with a manager beforehand.

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However, Barber said he’ll meet with Adam Aron, the chairman of AMC Entertainment Holdings, after Aron reached out to him. Hence, Barber is “hopeful” that the meeting will lead to just and reasonable things for those with disabilities.

Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP chapter from 2005 until 2017, said he would address the issue in a news conference. He also vowed to ensure people with disabilities never experience such discrimination in public spaces. 

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