GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – Rev William Barber II has announced that he will be holding a press conference on Friday to address his being escorted out of a Greenville theater Tuesday afternoon.
Barber, who says he suffers from a severe and disabling bone disease that makes it impossible to sit in a regular seat without being in pain, said he was at the Greenville AMC theater on Fire Tower Road with his 90-year-old mother to see a screening of The Color Purple on Tuesday when he was told by theater employees that he would not be allowed to use a special chair in the wheelchair area of the theater.
According to Barber, theater staff offered no accommodation that would allow the use of his chair, which is carried by an assistant everywhere he goes so that he can sit. When he refused to remove the chair, employees called the police and asked that Barber be removed from the theater.
Police say that when they asked Barber to leave he did so voluntarily. Barber said he was told that they would have to close down the theater and arrest him if he didn’t leave. Barber says he then agreed to be escorted out, leaving his 90-year-old mother behind with an assistant.
“How ridiculous is it that someone can’t be accommodated as the Americans with Disability Act requires and instead management would have police escort me out?” Bishop Barber asked. “This is about how people with disabilities–regardless of race, color, creed, or sexual orientation–should be treated fairly. With all the issues and real battles going on in the world, for managers of a theater to decide they can’t accommodate you and would rather remove you from a theater is absurd, which is why I prayed for them.”
AMC Theaters has since issued a public apology to Barber and said that CEO Adam Aron had personally called Barber to apologize and offered to meet with him in Greenville next week to discuss what happened. Barber said he hopes the meeting will lead to just and good things for those with disabilities.
The press conference will be held at 11:30 am on Friday at Koinonia Christian Center 1405 SW Greenville Blvd. Rev. Barber is inviting people with disabilities to join Friday’s press conference.