AMC Theatres issues apology, talks with Barber, will meet next week in Greenville after he was forced to leave over chair

Free Press wire reports | 12/28/2023, 6 p.m.
AMC Theatres has issued a statement of apology and will meet with Bishop William J. Barber II after he was …
Bishop Barber

AMC Theatres has issued a statement of apology and will meet with Bishop William J. Barber II after he was escorted out of its Greenville theater when he was not allowed to use his own chair to watch a movie, according to WNCT 9 television in Greenville, N.C.

The statement was sent to WNCT Wednesday afternoon from AMC Theatres Vice President of Corporate Communications Ryan Noonan. It reads:

“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. AMC’s Chairman and CEO Adam Aron has already telephoned him, and plans to meet with him in person in Greenville, N.C. next week to discuss both his situation and the good works Bishop Barber is engaged in throughout the years.

“AMC welcomes guests with disabilities,” the statement added. “We have a number of accommodations in place at our theatres at all times, and our theatre teams work hard to accommodate guests who have needs that fall outside of the normal course of business. 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. We are also reviewing our policies with our theater teams to help ensure that situations like this do not occur again.”

Bishop Barber is the minister of Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ in Goldsboro and a social activist, once serving as the chair of the North Carolina NAACP. He was at the theatre with his 90-year-old mother to see “The Color Purple.”

Management told him that he would not be allowed to use his own chair to sit and watch the movie in the marked handicapped section of the theater. Management then had two Greenville police officers come to the location, and Bishop Barber was escorted from the building.

Bishop Barber said he cannot sit in chairs that require him to be close to the floor due to a bad hip. He walks with two canes and carries a chair with him to accommodate himself. He said that he had never been anywhere that did not allow him to use his own chair.

“I have a disability myself. I have serious Ankylosing (kind of arthritis),” Bishop Barber said Tuesday. “I have bad hips and I can’t sit low.

“So whether I’m on Broadway, the White House, the State House, United States Congress, they always let me bring this chair. Never been a problem. In fact, other movie theaters, never been a problem,” Bishop Barber said.

According to Bishop Barber, there were no signs or rules posted by the theater that suggested he would be prohibited from using his chair.

Exactly 10 years ago Bishop Barber was propelled onto the national stage when he led a series of weekly civil disobedience protests in North Carolina against the Republicans’ extreme voter suppression bills and benefits cuts. Within a year, the “Moral Mondays” snowballed from 50 people to more than 100,000, generating a nationwide movement called the Poor People’s Campaign, a conscious echo of the movement of the same name that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led and which was cut short when he was assassinated in 1968, according to The Guardian.

Earlier this year, Bishop Barber became director and a professor of practice at the Center for Public Theology and Public Policy at the divinity school of Yale University.