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Lawyers for three black artists – including two from Canada – who were detained while leaving a house in California after a neighbour reported them as burglars are demanding a meeting with local authorities.

Award-winning Toronto filmmaker Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, Nigerian-Canadian visual artist Komi-Oluwa Olafimihan and filmmaker Donisha Prendergast, who is Jamaican singer Bob Marley’s eldest granddaughter, were putting suitcases in their vehicle on April 30 when police descended on the Rialto, Calif., property the trio had rented on Airbnb.

They say a helicopter buzzed overhead as officers closed in with hands on their gun holsters and ordered them to put their hands up.

Lawyer Jasmine Rand says the officers told them they were under investigation for the commission of a felony and were being detained.

Rand says a white female neighbour “racially profiled” them and called 911 saying that she found them “suspicious” because they did not wave to her and told police that three black people were “stealing stuff.”

Police say the group was released after about 30 minutes, but Rand says she will be requesting a criminal investigation into the woman who placed the 911 call making the false allegations.

Rand noted in a statement Wednesday that there were four people in the group checking out of the Airbnb and that the fourth was a white woman.

“A Rialto Police Department officer is clearly heard on video saying that the caller identified: ‘three suspicious Black people stealing stuff’,” she said. “Apparently, the neighbour did not find the same exact actions of the fourth person – a white woman – ‘suspicious’.”

Rand said the group brought the caller’s “obvious racial bias” to the attention of the officers, but alleges they dismissed their concern.

Rialto police said in a statement the officers “treated the involved individuals with dignity, respect and professionalism.”

“In this matter, officers followed departmental policies and procedures in handling this reported in-progress residential burglary call,” it said.

Police said they would not comment further because the department had been served with notification of pending legal action on behalf of Prendergast, Olafimihan and Fyffe-Marshall.

Fyffe-Marshall said in a Facebook post that “about 20 minutes into this misunderstanding it escalated almost instantly.”

A police sergeant arrived and explained they didn’t know what Airbnb was, and insisted that we were lying about it, she said.

“We showed them the booking confirmations and phoned the landlord,” she said.

“We have been dealing with different emotions and you want to laugh about this but it’s not funny,” she said. “The trauma is real.”

Olafimihan, who described himself as “a peaceful person,” said he is “regularly commissioned by the Government of Canada to create afro-futuristic works that project positive social aspirations for future generations.”

“It has taken me almost a full week to fully digest the gravity of the situation we were put in due to the unwarranted fear continually spread by the media,” he said in an Instagram post.

Prendergast called the incident “surreal.”

“Cop cars rushing in and surrounding our vehicle, closing in on us with their hands on their holsters and ordering us to put our hands up,” she said in a statement. “I’m a filmmaker, and I had seen this movie too many times in America,” she said.

Rand said Airbnb official Laura Murphy has sent a letter to Rialto’s mayor and the police department saying the company is “deeply disturbed” by the reports suggesting that the police response was dictated by the guests’ race.

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