The woman and her 10-year-old daughter were stopped by police at Denver International Airport last month after a flight attendant called the duo suspicious, which the woman says is racist.
White Mary McCarthy and her 10-year-old daughter Black flew from San Jose, California to Denver on October 22 to be with their family following the sudden death of McCarthy’s older brother last night. When they arrived in Denver, they were greeted on the bridge by a Southwest Airlines employee and two Denver police officers.
At first, McCarthy thought the police had come to tell her about another death in her family. The two officers began talking separately with McCarthy and her daughter Moira. The officers wanted to interrogate McCarthy and her daughter because a Southwest Airlines employee called them suspicious and McCarthy a potential trafficker, according to the Denver police report and McCarthy’s report.
“The officer said, ‘We are talking to you because you were reported to the pilot for suspicious behavior,” McCarthy said. “And it immediately occurred to me what was going on. This is the type of situation that mixed race families and families of color constantly face when traveling. ”
McCarthy explained why they were traveling and that the girl who sobbed during the incident was indeed her daughter. The officers and employee released her after McCarthy explained why she was traveling.
McCarthy said she was angry not with the way the officers and Southwest employee treated her on the jet bridge, but with the Southwest employee on the plane who reported her without any conversation or contact.
The flight attendant who reported McCarthy told police she had suspicions because the two were the last to board the plane and because McCarthy asked other passengers to move so her daughter could sit next to her, according to a copy of the police report. obtained by The Denver. Publishing by requesting records. The attendant also reported that the couple did not speak during the flight.
McCarthy said they were the last to board the plane because they had been assigned the last boarding group and that the passengers on the plane had no problem rearranging their seats. McCarthy said she and her daughter spoke little during the flight because she was trying to catch up on lost sleep while her daughter was listening to an audiobook.
“This is all based on what I consider to be a racist blended family assumption,” McCarthy said.
Families of different races have repeatedly complained that they were interrogated as trafficking suspects while on a flight to the United States.
A white Phoenix male flying home from vacation with his family, including his adopted Chinese daughter, was stopped by police after a Southwest flight attendant said he was suspicious. A black woman from Aurora flying with her adopted white sister was stopped by police in Dallas after a passenger on a Frontier Airlines flight reported her to airline employees as a potential trafficker.
Cindy McCain, widow of Senator John McCain, apologized in 2019 for falsely claiming that she had stopped a trafficking crime when she reported a woman traveling with a toddler of a different nationality at Phoenix airport, stating that the couple “looked strange “And that” something didn’t cross my mind. Phoenix Police later confirmed that McCain had reported the woman, but said they had investigated and found no evidence of a crime.
McCarthy is demanding an apology from Southwest for his employee’s racist assumptions about her and her daughter.
The police report on the incident also angered McCarthy, because the officers wrote that McCarthy “did not want to give any information.” But McCarthy explained why she was driving and gave the officers ID cards, she said. The video she recorded part of the interaction shows how she explains her journey.
The Southwest media team declined to answer specific questions about the incident, including who reported McCarthy and her daughter, why the person was suspicious, and what signs are trained to look for Southwest employees as evidence of human trafficking.
“Southwest regrets that this family is reporting anything less than a positive travel experience with us,” the company said in an e-mail statement. “The client’s report has been forwarded to Southwest’s account department and they will be in direct contact with the client.”
Southwest Airlines announced in 2019 that it will provide online training to all of its employees on how to detect trafficking in persons and what steps to take if trafficking is suspected. Public relations personnel such as pilots and flight attendants receive additional training.
According to McCarthy, the entire airport incident further complicated an already tough day for Moira.
“When we talk about it, she kind of calms down,” McCarthy said.