Donisha Prendergast, the granddaughter of reggae legend Bob Marley, claims she was racially profiled by police officers who swarmed her and two friends in Southern California.
Prendergast and two friends said they had rented a home through Airbnb last week so they could attend a music festival in nearby San Bernardino when cops suddenly descended on the group.
"Got surrounded by the police for being black in a white neighborhood," Prendergast posted to Instagram in late April, after she and her friends were questioned by police when a neighbor called 911 to say there were people she didn't know carrying suitcases out of her neighbor's house.
She now plans to sue the Rialto Police Department. The women accompanying her, filmmakers Komi-Oluwa Olafimihan and Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, said they will be parties in the legal action.
"I'm sad and irritated to see that fear is still the first place police officers go in their pursuit to serve and protect, to the point that protocol supersedes their ability to have discernment," Prendergast wrote.
Be Love. So much things to say right now.... Got surrounded by the police for being black in a white neighbourhood. Smh. I’m sad and irritated to see that fear is still the first place police officers go in their pursuit to serve and protect, to the point that protocol supersedes their ability to have discernment. Many have suffered and died in moments like these. That’s a crazy reality check. Give Thanks for life, and the ability to stand our ground. We are stronger together. Use your voice collectively. #unafraid #mightcannotdefeatright #wewillrizetogether #buildcomeunity #strongertogether #useyourvoice #eachoneteach We have a right to be right. @iamdonisha @directedbykells @ahutchphoto @komiolaf
Rialto police held a press conference Monday to deny Prendergast's assertions that officers told the women to put their hands in the air. The department released bodycam footage showing the women laughing and talking with responding officers.
The women claim things were light-hearted for about 20 minutes, but went downhill from there. The officers didn't know what Airbnb was, Prendergast said. The women were detained for about 45 minutes while police attempted to contact the rental home's owner and examined the Airbnb reservation Prendergast had stored in her cellphone.
The police department issued a statement at the press conference, saying officers did not "restrain" the women and "treated the individuals with dignity, respect and professionalism."
The homeowner also appeared at the press conference, saying her neighbor contacted police because there had been recent break-ins in their area.
The department was served with legal notice on Monday of a pending legal action on behalf of the three women.