The woman who was forcibly removed from a Southwest Airlines flight last week — and later charged with disorderly conduct and a slew of other offenses — is now disputing the airline’s version of how the incident unfolded.
At the time, it was reported that the flight had an emotional support animal and another pet on board, and that the woman said she had life-threatening allergies that wouldn’t allow her to be on a plane with dogs, so she asked the crew to remove the dogs because of her allergy. When the crew told her they couldn’t remove the animals, the airline said the woman asked for an injection to alleviate her symptoms.
But in a statement issued on the woman’s behalf by her legal team, she says that she discussed her allergies to dogs with Southwest representatives when she boarded the aircraft, and that she never said those allergies are life-threatening.
Instead, she says she told them she could manage perfectly fine by sitting far from the dogs at the rear of the plane. She also claims she never asked for the dogs to be removed from the plane and did not request an EpiPen.
After she’d picked her seat and got settled in, she says she was grading student papers — she’s a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art — when she was approached by a series of Southwest representatives. The woman says she answered every question they asked, and was never asked for medical certification, something she wouldn’t have needed to carry because again, her allergies are not life-threatening.
But although she tried to convince the crew that she was totally fine, she claims she was asked by another airline rep to exit the plane.
“Shortly thereafter, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police pulled her from her seat by her belt loop, dragged her through the aisle exposed with torn pants, and humiliated her for the world to see in a now viral video,” the statement reads, alleging that police later disparaged her, accused her of lying about her pregnancy, and made racist remarks about immigrants.
“I was calmly explaining that it’s not life-threatening over and over again and I even gave options that were just categorically rejected by the captain,” she told Good Morning America today. “There’s something that they just didn’t trust me. I was a brown woman with a hoodie.”
Her lawyers claim she suffered physical injuries and mental trauma, required emergency care at a local hospital, including for her pregnancy, and is under continuing medical care. She also says she’s received hate mail including racist messages and threats of violence, and that someone tried to break into her home. She has since left her home out of concern for her safety.
“Her removal from the flight had nothing to do with allergies or safety concerns,” the statement says. She “was profiled, abused, interrogated, detained, and subjected to false reporting and the trauma of racist, vitriolic public shaming precisely because she is a woman, a person of color, and a Muslim,” the statement claims.
As for the criminal charges levied against her – disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, obstructing, and hindering a police officer — her legal team says those accusations have no merit.
Her lawyer told GMA that although she’s a professor, a researcher, and a scholar, “we fear that when you Google her the first thing that is going to come up are these criminal charges, which we plan to contest.”