Weeks after a black female customer was arrested — and forcibly exposed — at a Waffle House location in Saraland, Alabama, the restaurant chain is standing by what happened.
Chikesia Clemons, 25, was arrested early on the morning of April 23 after arguing with a waitress about being charged for plastic utensils. After Clemons requested the number for the district manager so that she could file a complaint, the waitress disappeared into the back of the restaurant. The police arrived shortly thereafter, and cellphone footage taken by one of Clemons’ friends shows the officers dragging her off of her chair, threatening to break her arm, and pinning her to the ground. In the process, her breasts were exposed.
Clemons was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, and the incident sparked nationwide outrage, as well as investigations by the Saraland Police Department and the NAACP.
Activists are calling for the restaurant chain to withdraw charges and release surveillance footage of the incident, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported earlier this month, as well as publicly condemn the actions of the police officers involved and take disciplinary action against the employees involved. Activists are also calling for a boycott of the restaurant chain, beginning May 4.
Waffle House spokesman Pat Warner defended the actions of the restaurant’s employees on April 30, telling activists who had gathered at the chain’s corporate headquarters that employees are trained to contact authorities “anytime there is concern about their personal safety or that of their customers.”
A written statement handed out by Warner said much of the same.
“Previously, we stated that upon reviewing security video and eyewitness statements, it was our belief that our associates calling the police was necessary and appropriate,” the statement read, in part. “In the days since, we have gathered additional details and information. Witnesses say several threats were made to our associates including threats of violence, and that’s why the police were called.”
The company’s investigation into the matter was scheduled to come to a close earlier this month, according to their statement.
Waffle House has previously defended the police’s handling of the situation, writing in a Twitter statement, “We are still obtaining and reviewing information. However, the information we have received at this point differs significantly from what has reportedly been attributed to Ms. Clemons. After reviewing our security video of the incident and eye witness accounts, police intervention was appropriate.”
“The Saraland Police Department is conducting its own investigation,” the statement continued. “We take this matter very seriously and think it is important for all those involved or interested in the matter to exercise caution until the facts are developed.”
Saraland police also stood by the arrest, claiming that the incident occurred because Clemons was intoxicated that night and reacted negatively to being asked to leave after bringing alcoholic beverages inside the restaurant, the Huffington Post reports. Detective Brian Mims claimed that Clemons was “being loud and using profanity,” and witnesses reportedly told officers that she made various threatening statements.
“I may have a gun, I may have anything, I can come back and shoot this place up if I need to,” witnesses say Clemons said, according to the Huffington Post.
As for the “break your arm” statement, Detective Collette Little said that what the officer’s words were “not a threat,” but a warning of the dangers of resisting arrest when one’s hands are already behind their back.
On the same day as Clemons’ arrest, a tragic shooting occurred at a Nashville, Tennessee Waffle House location that left four diners dead.
A group of about a dozen protestors met at a Waffle House in Mobile, Alabama on May 5 in support of Clemons, WKRG reports. The day before, counter-protestors dined at the same location in support of Waffle House and Saraland Police. Meanwhile, following the arrest of Anthony Wall — the 22-year-old black man who was choked by a police officer at a North Caorlina Waffle House earlier this month — Bernice King, minister and daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., called for a boycott of the restaurant chain.
(Photo: Screenshot via YouTube)