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

Bishop William Barber was removed from an AMC theater for bringing his special chair. (Credit: Instagram/ @revdrbarber)

A disabled Civil Rights leader was removed from a movie theater in North Carolina for using his specialized chair, prompting AMC Theatres to later issue an apology.

Bishop William Barber, 60, told local news station WNCT 9 he was escorted out of the AMC Fire Tower 12 in Greenville by police officers on Tuesday, Dec. 26.

Barber went to the theater to see The Color Purple with his 90-year-old mother.

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He told the station he has a form of arthritis known as ankylosing spondylitis, has trouble walking, and takes his special chair when he goes out.

But when theater employees saw him setting up the chair in the designated handicapped section, there was a disagreement and an employee called police.

Barber, who is a former NAACP North Carolina chapter president, said he takes the chair everywhere, even when he visited the White House.

“I have a disability. I have serious ankylosing. I walk with two canes, I have bad hips and I can’t sit low. Whether I’m on Broadway, the White House, the state house, the United States Congress, they always let me bring this chair. It’s never been a problem,” he said. “In fact, in other movie theaters, it’s never been a problem.

The station showed the chair, which is a white stool with no arms. Barber said he was told the chair posed a fire hazard.

Cell phone video of the incident posted on YouTube, showed him sitting in the chair as he was approached by a police officer. After he agreed to leave the building, no charges were filed.

In a statement to the local media, AMC said the company’s CEO plans to meet with Barber next week.

“We sincerely apologize to Bishop Barber for how he was treated, and for the frustration and inconvenience brought to him, his family, and his guests,” the statement 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.”

The statement went on to urge guests with disabilities to speak with theater management ahead of time.

“We encourage guests who require special seating to speak with a manager in advance to see what can best be accommodated at the theater to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for the guest and those around them,” AMC said. “We are also reviewing our policies with our theater teams to help ensure that situations like this do not occur again.”

Barber later released a statement of his own, calling the situation “absurd” and said he prayed for the theater employees.

Watch the local news report below: