The civil rights group South Asian Americans Leading Together is calling for the Maryland State Attorney to drop charges against Pakistani American Anila Daulatzai, who last fall was forcibly removed from a Southwest Airlines flight in Baltimore after complaining of pet allergies.
Southwest Airlines says Daulatzai, 46, had complained about two dogs aboard the Los Angeles-bound plane, stating that she had a life-threatening pet allergy, according to reports at the time. But the woman could not provide a medical certificate, without which the airline can deny a passenger boarding, reports said.
Daulatzai was removed by Maryland Transportation Authority Police on Sept. 26, 2017. The incident escalated to involving the MDTA Police when Daulatzai told Southwest staffers that her dog allergies were not life-threatening.
Southwest crew members insisted she deplane.
A video of the incident taken by passenger Bill Dumas shows the officers pulling her out of her seat. She screams at them, telling them, "Don't touch me." In the video, she is seen being dragged down the aisle. She was later arrested.
According to AP, the woman's lawyer said she never claimed her allergy to dogs was life-threatening, her lawyer had said.
Daulatzai did tell the crew that she was allergic to the two dogs traveling in the cabin, and they agreed that she could manage by sitting away from the dogs, near the rear of the plane, according to a statement from attorney Arjun Sethi.
Daulatzai, a former visiting professor at Harvard, then took her seat and was grading papers when a series of Southwest representatives questioned her, he said. A Southwest representative ultimately asked her to leave the Sept. 26 flight to Los Angeles, and when she refused, they summoned the Maryland Transportation Authority Police to eject her.
Lt. Kevin Ayd, a spokesman for the police agency, said in a statement that officers responded to a direct request from a Southwest captain to remove the passenger.
"Despite her clear attempt to resist a law enforcement officer, Ms. Daulatzai was professionally removed from the aircraft within the guidelines of the MDTA Police" the statement said.
The lawyer also said that Daulatzai, who is Muslim, was racially profiled.
"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," Sethi said. Daulatzai is pregnant with her first child, her lawyer said.
Daulatzai was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and other misdemeanor offenses.
Daulatzai said she was traveling to see her elderly father, who was undergoing surgery. She told "Good Morning America" after the incident that when she boarded the plane, "the first thing I asked the flight attendant was, 'How many dogs are going to be on this plane?'"
But, she said, she never told airline personnel that her allergy was a life-threatening condition, according to a Washington Post report.
"I said, 'It's not life-threatening at all,'" she said in the broadcast interview.
Daulatzai insisted that crew members continued to press her about her allergy and were uncomfortable with her on the plane.
"They just didn't trust me," she said on the program. "I was a brown woman with a hoodie."
"Instead of getting an apology from Southwest, Ms. Daulatzai is now facing several criminal charges from the State of Maryland. Join us in calling on the State Attorney to drop the charges," SAALT added.
In a statement released after the incident, Daulatzai's attorneys charged that 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 Post reported at the time.
"She survived sexism, racial profiling, and police brutality that fateful day," reads the statement from Hall & Sethi, a law firm based in Reston, Va., that specializes in cases of personal injury, the Post said. "Her mistreatment was particularly distressing because she is presently pregnant with her first child."
"The use of force on Ms. Daulatzai by law enforcement was excessive and unnecessary, as was the filing of criminal charges against her," SAALT said. "These heavy-handed and punitive tactics send a dangerous message that airlines and law enforcement can continue to discriminate against our communities, with no recourse."
Shortly after the incident, on Oct. 30, 30 civil rights organizations, both local and national, issued a letter to Southwest Airlines expressing their displeasure at the way the incident unfolded.
What the organizations received in response was a justification of the crew member's action's that day, SAALT noted.
Daulatzai is scheduled to face trial in the coming weeks.