Donisha Prendergast, the 33 year-old granddaughter of reggae legend Bob Marley, reportedly intends to file suit against the Rialto Police Department after she and three friends were accused of being thieves while staying at an Airbnb. Prendergast, a filmmaker, actress and activist, was in California for the “We Will Rise Together” event when she and her companions, all black, were confronted by four officers as they were leaving the property after a neighbor reportedly called authorities when they spotted the group exiting the home with their luggage.
Prendergast — daughter of Melody Makers member singer/dancer Sharon Marley — posted a video of the confrontation, in which she appeared to be speaking on the phone with the property’s owner, attempting to have the woman explain the situation to the officers. “There are four police officers here,” she can be heard saying in the clip. “We watched your neighbor call the police.”
In the caption to the post, Prendergast quoted her grandfather’s lyrics to “Redemption Song,” writing, “My hand was made strong, by the hands of the Almighty. None of them can stop the time. We won’t stand aside and look. We are greater than they wanted us to believe.”
According to a spokesperson for Prendergast, the filmmaker’s legal team plan to announce an update on the lawsuit on Wednesday (May 9). Rialto Police Department acting public information officer Lt. Dean Harden tells Billboard that the department received notice on Monday (May 7) that there was “pending legal action,” though at press time he said it was unclear what that action might entail.
CBS LA reported that the Apr. 30 incident, which Prendergast tagged as racial profiling, was a result of the Airbnb host, Marie Rodriguez, not alerting her neighbor that the home was being rented. “As you can see 3 of us were Black. About 10 seconds later we were surrounded by 7 cop cars. The officers came out of their cars demanding us to put our hands in the air. They informed us that there was also a helicopter tracking us. They locked down the neighborhood and had us standing in the street. Why? A neighbour across the street saw 3 black people packing luggage into their car and assumed we were stealing from the house. She then called the police. At first we joked about the misunderstanding and took photos and videos along the way,” read a Facebook post written by one of the other women staying at the home, film director Kells Fyffe-Marshall.
“About 20 minutes into this misunderstanding it escalated almost instantly. Their Sergeant arrived… he explained they didn’t know what Airbnb was. He insisted that we were lying about it and said we had to prove it. We showed them the booking confirmations and phoned the landlord… because they didn’t know what she looked like on the other end to confirm it was her.. they detained us – because they were investigating a felony charge – for 45 minutes while they figured it out.”
Fyffe-Marshall said the trauma of the incident was real and it left the group “angry, frustrated and sad,” noting she was also later detained at the airport. “The cops admit that the woman’s reason for calling the police was because we didn’t WAVE to her as she looked at us putting our luggage into our car from her lawn. #wedidntwave.”
Harden tells Billboard that, technically, Prendergast and the three others were detained during the incident, but that they were not cuffed and were free to leave as police tried ot ascertain what the situation was. “They were detained long enough to figure out if that was true [that they were renting an Airbnb],” he says. “They were allowed to move about [during the detention] and the filmed the whole thing… The officers figured out pretty quickly that this was probably an incident where they were renting a room, but they had to make sure.” He added that it was the first time the Airbnb was being rented and the complaining neighbor is well-acquainted with the renter and is a member of the neighborhood watch.
Prendergast could not be reached for comment at press time.