Two white police officers in Alabama wrestled a black woman to the ground in a Waffle House early Sunday morning, exposing her breasts during the struggle and prompting comparisons to two black men arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks earlier this month.
The incident sparked a sit-in protest at the store Sunday afternoon and led to responses from the NAACP and celebrities, even as Waffle House officials contested the details of the family’s story.
A video that has gone viral shows Chikesia Clemons, 25, sitting on a chair at the diner in Saraland, north of Mobile, as one of the officers grabs her neck and right wrist in an attempt to subdue her. Clemons describes a disagreement with a store employee that triggered the police response. She soon appears conscious of her tube top and raises her arms to cover her bust line.
“You’re not going to grab on me like that, no,” Clemons tells the officer, who appears to speak to another officer off-camera in the video filmed by Clemons’s friend, Canita Adams.
What happens next is unclear. AL.com published an edited version of Adams’s video that jumps to the moment Clemons and the two officers go to the ground in a violent tumble. It is unclear from the video who initiated the struggle that forced Clemons and the officers to the floor.
“What are you doing?” Clemons asks as the struggle continues on the tile floor.
“I’ll break your arm, that’s what I’m about to do,” an officer says.
The struggle continues, with officers demanding Clemons to stop “resisting” as her breast is exposed.
At one point, an officer places his hand around her neck.
“You’re choking me!” Clemons cries out.
The officer releases his grip when a third officer nearby gestures with his hand. Clemons was arrested at about 2:45 a.m. and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, her mother Chiquitta Clemons-Howard told AL.com.
One person was arrested at a protest outside the store where Clemons was arrested, AL.com reported.
The arrest at the Waffle House comes as companies face questions about racial profiling and how law enforcement responds. Less than two weeks ago, a white Starbucksmanager called the police with a loitering complaint on two African American men who had been sitting in the store for two minutes. The men were arrested, and in the following days, both the CEO of Starbucks and Philadelphia’s police commissioner apologized. The company’s chairman saying the manager likely acted on her own “unconscious bias” when she called 911.
Clemons-Howard told AL.com the dispute arose after her daughter refused to pay an extra 50 cents for plastic utensils.
“They didn’t even ask her to leave, she was waiting for them to give her the district manager’s card so she could file a complaint on one of the waitresses,” Clemons-Howard told the outlet. “When they went to go get the card, that’s when the police showed up. The officer should’ve come in and said we need you to leave.”
Clemons, Clemons-Howard and Adams could not be reached for comment.
The Saraland Police Department did not return a request for comment and told AL.com it was investigating the incident. It is unclear who called the police.
Waffle House said in statement that police intervention was appropriate.
“[T]he information we have received at this point differs significantly from what has reportedly been attributed to Ms. Clemons,” the company said.
Waffle House officials, speaking anonymously to offer a candid assessment of the incident, said key details were left out of statements by Clemons and Clemons-Howard to the media, including what happened before police arrived.
Surveillance footage with no audio shows Clemons or another woman from her three-person party standing on seat and gesturing at a staff member “while appearing agitated,” the officials said. The group began to leave restaurant but then returned to continue the confrontation.
Police arrived soon after.
The Mobile chapter of the NAACP told AL.com it was also gathering information about the incident.
“In light of the current situation in our country — such as the arrest of two young black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks coffee shop — we felt it was important for our members to get a firsthand account of the incident, which has now gone viral on social media locally and across the country,” chapter president David Smith said.
Chance the Rapper also weighed in on Monday.
“Protect our women. This is wrong, this is unjust and this happens to alot of women when there are NO cameras around. Stand with our women. Defend their voice, and their right to ask why they’re being handled, being removed, being CHOKED. Be infuriated. Be willing to fight,” he wrote on Twitter. He included a link to the video and emoji of a middle finger and a pig snout in an apparent insult to police.
The Alabama incident came the same day a gunman killed four people with an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle at a Waffle House outside Nashville and fled the scene. The suspect has been taken into custody.
The shooting and arrest at the two Waffle Houses culminated in a blistering few hours for the iconic Southern breakfast chain. According to its website, Waffle House has been in operation since 1955. Its more than 1,500 restaurants are open 24 hours per day each day of the year.