Approximately 20 protesters stood on the curb outside the U.S. Airways ticket counter at San Francisco International Airport Monday afternoon shouting calls of justice for Deshon Marman.
(SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTOS)
Marman's story instantly became a national lighting rod after airline employees ejected him from a U.S. Airways flight for wearing pants they deemed too baggy. The 20-year-old African American man was later arrested after refusing to comply with crew member instructions to leave the aircraft as it was parked at the gate.
Holding a sign reading, "U.S. Airways must be sentenced repentance," Rev. Renard Allen of San Francisco's Third Baptist Church said the protestors, organized by the local chapter of the NAACP, were there to "protest injustice, inequity, decimation and racial profiling." He added, "we're saying this will not fly in the land of the free and the home of the brave."
The controversy began last month when Marman, a native of San Francisco's Bayview district, was attempting to board a U.S. Airways flight to New Mexico at San Francisco International Airport. Marman, who plays football at the University of New Mexico, was in town for the funeral of his close friend and former teammate David Henderson, who was fatally gunned down in the Bayview a few weeks prior.
On his way back to school after Henderson's funeral, Marman was boarding the Wednesday morning U.S. Airways flight to Albuquerque from SFO when the cut of his pants offended the sensibilities of a flight attendant. "She could see the outline of his private area," police Sgt. Michael Rodriguez relayed to reporters.
The attendant asked Marman to pull up his pants and, still reeling from his friend's death, Marman refused. The stewardess complained to the captain, who threatened to throw Marman off the plane and place him under citizens arrest if he didn't comply. Before the captain could make good on his threat, the police arrived. Officers cuffed Marman and promptly carted him off to jail.
On Wednesday, the charges against Marman, which included battery of a police officer, resisting arrest and trespassing, were dropped by the San Mateo County District Attorney's office. "We do not believe that criminal charges are warranted in light of all of the circumstances surrounding the incident," San Mateo D.A. Steve Wagstaffe announced last week.
Even though the charges were dropped, many in the African American community still feel slighted by what they believe was a racially targeted attack. Adding fuel to the fire was the revelation that, only days before Marman was ejected from the plane, U.S. Airways permitted a white man to fly across the country dressed in nothing but women's lingerie.
Scroll through images from the protest here:
"This is another instance in which an African American young man has been victimized by the new Jim Crow," said Dr. Amos Brown, the president of the NAACP's San Francisco chapter and one of Allen's fellow reverends at Third Baptist. "[U.S. Airways] said his arrest was not about dress, but about his refusal to follow orders to leave the plane. The question is: Why was he asked to leave the plane in the first place?"
A spokesperson from U.S. Airways said the Arizona-based company doesn't believe the incident was racially motivated. "The issue has always been that Marman failed to comply with with crew member instructions. Above all else, Marman's removal from the plane was primarily about safety."
Airlines like to ensure that their passengers are totally compliant with whatever instructions they give so that, in the event of an emergency, crew members will feel secure in the knowledge that passengers will follow orders, according to the spokesperson. As a result, the spokesperson continued, airline employees may have viewed any apparent insubordination on Marman's part as a safety threat.
Rev. Allen said the NAACP had initially been in contact with U.S. Airways, but once the airline discovered the group was pursuing what he called "the fruits of repentance for the Marman family," it shut down communications completely. "We believe that when you are truly sorry for something you have you have done, you show those you have wronged the fruits of repentance," Allen said.
Allen said he could not comment on whether Marman was considering taking any sort of legal action against U.S. Airways.
"The world needs to see that U.S. Airways is a racist airline," said Brown. "Not just its employees, but in its corporate structure as well."