Civil rights activist William Barber II speaks publicly after being escorted out of movie theater

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – A civil rights activist is now speaking publicly after being escorted out of an AMC theater by police earlier this week.

William Barber II, known by many as a Reverend Barber, was kicked out of this AMC theater in Greenville Tuesday while trying to see The Color Purple with his 90-year-old mother. He told me that he was escorted out by two Greenville Police officers after managers of the movie theater said the special chair he needed for medical reasons was a fire hazard.

“All I wanted to do was spend a very sentimental time with my 90-year-old mother,” said Barber. But that time with his mother was stripped away.

“It should’ve never been a police escalation situation,” said Barber. After Barber was escorted out of the AMC theater by Greenville Police officers Tuesday.

“I could tell they didn’t wanna be there. I could tell it by their body language, their eyes, and even what they said as soon as I was outside; they said they were sorry and left,” said Barber.

Managers of the AMC Fire Tower 12 told him his special chair needed for a form of arthritis he has had for 30 years was a fire hazard.

“No, the chair is not a fire hazard; where you place, it is a fire hazard. If it was a fire hazard, I couldn’t have taken it to hospitals and the White House,” said Barber.

Friday, he spoke publicly, along with other disabled people and supporters by his side claiming AMC broke federal law.

“The law is clear Title III prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, and the activities of places are accommodation,” said Barber.

The AMC Theatres CEO has contacted Barber and plans to fly into Eastern Carolina to meet with him.

Arthur Johnson, who showed up in support, says the fight for equality seems like a never-ending battle. “At one point, I thought we were getting past this public hate for each other because of disability because of race or religion, but right now, it just seems like it’s on steroids,” said supporter Arthur Johnson.

Another advocate says that, while it’s something no one wants to go through, you never know if you could be in a situation where you become disabled.

“You don’t know, driving away today if someone hits you or you hit something or have a stroke or attack, or someone else does near you – it’s a club no one wants to belong to, but you can be disabled later today,” said Steven Hardy-Braz.

At the press conference Friday, Barber also said he has a video he does not want to release yet of the managers “taunting” him and waving as he drives away. Along with the managers saying, ‘We know who you are. Go get a note from the doctors then come back.’

In an apology from AMC to Barber, the CEO of AMC said that AMC welcomes guests with disabilities, and it encourages customers who require special seating to speak with a manager in advance, adding that, “We are also reviewing our policies with our theater teams to help ensure that situations like this do not occur again.”