Bishop William Barber Demands ‘Systemic Changes’ After Being Ejected From AMC Theater

Bishop William Barber held a news conference in North Carolina on Friday, Dec. 29, 2023. (Credit: YouTube)

Bishop William Barber, a disabled Civil Rights leader who was removed from an AMC theater in Greenville, North Carolina, for bringing his own chair, is demanding policy changes and greater sensitivity for those with special needs.

Barber held a news conference on Friday, Dec. 29, to discuss what happened when he went to the AMC Fire Tower 12 theater to watch The Color Purple with his 90-year-old mother.

“Our plans were interrupted when the managers of the AMC theater here in Greenville chose to call the police rather than accommodate my visible disability,” Barber told the group of assembled journalists, clergy, and local residents with disabilities.

Related StoryAMC Issues Apology for Kicking Disabled Civil Rights Leader Out of Movie Theater

Barber, 60, is a former NAACP North Carolina chapter president. He’s visited the White House, U.S. Congress, and frequently appears on cable news.

“To call the police, armed police, and an armed security guard… could have escalated into something more dangerous if it had not possibly been somebody like me who is trained in non-violent resistance,” he said.

Barber told reporters he was diagnosed with a rare form of arthritis known as ankylosing spondylitis over 30 years ago.

“I walk now with two canes. I have to carry with me now a high chair, everywhere I go, because my hip is fused… and I cannot bend to sit in a low chair, nor rise from a low position,” he stated.

[Watch the video below]

He showed off the chair — which resembles a bar stool — and later took a seat in the chair.

Barber said when he tried to place the chair in the theater’s designated disabled section during a matinee on Dec. 26, there was a disagreement with employees and he was approached by two managers.

A reporter asked if he had blocked an aisle in the theater with his chair and he said “no.”

He went on to say, theater managers called the Greenville Police Department.

According to Barber, one of the managers asked the officers to charge him with trespassing, while the other manager told Barber he should “bring a note” from his doctor saying he has a disability, then come back.

“Both of them said, ‘We know who you are.’ That’s when it triggered me that this was bigger than me,” Barber stated.

“This is not about me personally. This is about systemic changes, what policy changes need to be done to make sure this happens to no one,” he continued.

AMC apologized after video of the incident went viral. In a statement, the company said, “AMC’s Chairman and CEO Adam Aron has already telephoned him and plans to meet with him in person in Greenville, NC, next week to discuss both this situation and the good works Bishop Barber is engaged in throughout the years.”

Barber confirmed he’d spoken with the CEO, although he declined to repeat what was said.

“I’ve already accepted the apology, but that’s not the issue. The apology is the beginning,” Barber said. “The shift in policy changes is the final.”

He praised the responding police officers and said, “They handled it professionally.”

Barber referenced Title 3 of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 14th Amendment, which calls for equal protection of all Americans.

He reminded those attending that people with special needs have rights too.

“It should have never been a police escalation situation. Never should I have been threatened to be charged with trespassing,” he said. “The law is clear. Title 3 prohibits discrimination based on disability in the activities or places of public accommodation.”

Barber then called for “more compassion.”

Watch the news conference below with Bishop William Barber.