Police have defended their actions in Saraland, Alabama, after video of two white police officers throwing a black woman to the ground at a Waffle House, and in the process exposing her breasts, has sparked community anger and protests.
Cell phone video shot by a friend of the arrested women, identified as 25-year-old Chikesia Clemons, begins with an officer holding onto the wrist and shoulder of Clemons as she sits on a chair, having a heated exchange with the officers. The video then cuts to two police officers pulling Clemons down to the floor and exposing her breasts in the process of trying to arrest her.
A third officer appears above the two men as they try to make Clemons lie on her stomach.
"What are you doing?" Clemons can be heard asking as other patrons in the restaurant can be seen.
"I'm about to break your arm that's what I'm about to do," a police officer responds.
Late Monday, the Saraland Police Department held a press conference and defended the actions of their officers. Police detectives played an audio clip of the 911 call made to police by a Waffle House employee and showed three surveillance videos from inside the Waffle House.
In the 911 call, an employee named Ally said three individuals entered the restaurant with alcohol and were drunk.
Detective Collette Little then played videos taken from three cameras inside the Waffle House. One video showed the women entering with a man and sitting at a booth. "The situation then escalated between the patrons at that table and the employees," Det. Little said about the second video, which showed a heated argument. "At this point the employee has asked the patrons to leave the establishment," Det. Little said. After the group left, a third video shows two women returning.
Citing witness testimony, Det. Little and Det. Mims, who did not give his first name, said the women used profanity and threats. "I'll come over this counter and beat your fucking ass, bitch I'm gonna have your job, you ain't gonna be here tomorrow," Det. Mims read from a witnesses statement. None of the video angles showed by the police revealed the violent arrest which was captured on cell phone video.
Saraland Police said they are "not choosing to take any action at this time" against the officers. The arrest was "based solely on the fact that they were asked to take their beverages out and not consume them on the premises, per Waffle House's policy," Det. Mims said.
The mother of Clemons, Chiquitta Clemons-Howard, told AL.com that the dispute at the Waffle House began when Clemons asked for plastic utensils and was told there would be a 50 cent charge. According to her mother, Clemons told the Waffle House that she has received utensils in the past, for free, and then her order was canceled by employees. While waiting for the contact information for the regional manager of the Waffle House, the police arrived. It is unclear who called the police.
"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 AL.com. "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."
The police in Saraland, a city near Mobile, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. At the press conference police officials declined to release the names of the three officers involved in the arrest, citing their safety over public interest.
Clemons-Howard said her daughter was booked on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, and was released on $1,000 bond.
"[I]t's fair to say that the information we have received at this point differs significantly from what has reportedly been attributed to Ms. Clemons and strongly supports the actions taken by the Saraland Police Department," Waffle House spokesperson Pat Warner wrote to AL.com in an email Sunday.
In a Facebook post Sunday, the Saraland Police Department said it was "aware of the arrest at Waffle House and the accompanying video on social media," and the incident is under "active investigation."
One person was arrested at a protest at the Waffle House on Sunday after video of the Clemons arrest began circulating online.
“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,” read a statement from the president of NAACP in Mobile, David Smith.
"Me and my friend is truly blessed to be still here," Canita Adams, Clemon's friend who shot the video, wrote on Facebook. "That situation could’ve turned out way worst then what it was."
BuzzFeed News has reached out to the police department, Clemons, her mother, Clemons-Howard, and the friend who shot the video, Canita Adams, for comment.