A Black woman who was violently arrested by a white police officer inside an Alabama Waffle House last year is now filing a civil rights lawsuit against the restaurant chain for supporting discrimination.
Chikesia Clemons was arrested at the Saraland Waffle House in Saraland, Alabama, on April 22, 2018. In a cellphone video that quickly went viral, the then 25-year-old woman could be seen with her breasts exposed as several Saraland police officers pulled her to the ground.
“What are you doing?” Clemons asked one of the officers, the video taken by her friend Canita Adams showed.
“I’ll break your arm, that’s what I’m about to do,” the officer responded.
The controversial video sparked outrage and prompted national headlines and protests outside the restaurant’s corporate headquarters in Norcross, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Clemons is now accusing the Waffle House employees of calling the police on her and her friends in the early morning hours of April 22 because they were Black, the lawsuit filed on Wednesday (Nov. 13) in U.S. District Court in Atlanta states, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
At the time of the incident, Clemons was arrested for reportedly being drunk and threatening restaurant workers. In July 2018, she was found guilty by a judge in municipal court for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, WKRG News 5 reports.
After appealing the municipal court’s ruling, Clemons was granted a jury trial and was found not guilty of disorderly conduct and guilty of resisting arrest in August, Fox 10 reported in August, following the jury’s split verdict.
She was sentenced to pay a $500 fine and one-year probation, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported at the time.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday (Nov. 13) refutes claims that Clemons and her friends were intoxicated or unruly, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
“The only reason Ms. Clemons was subjected to this assault [by police] was because Waffle House employees falsely reported her and her friends as being drunk,” the lawsuit states, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The employees called the police based on racial animus not out of fear for their safety or that of their customers.”
The law firm Benjamin Crump, which has represented clients like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown’s families, is now representing Clemons’ civil rights lawsuit, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
“As we’ve said previously, we regret this incident happened at all,” Pat Warner, a corporate spokesman for Waffle House, said in an email to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Warner added the restaurant is in the process of reviewing the lawsuit.
“As anyone who has dined with us knows, we have a very diverse customer base and workforce,” Warner continued. “We have had a culture of inclusion since we opened our doors in 1955, and are very proud of the fact that our restaurants have been open to all.”
Clemons lost her job as a result of the incident and suffered from back pain and emotional distress, her new lawsuit claims.
Furthermore, the lawsuit requests for unspecified damages and for a judge to order Waffle House “to adopt and enforce policies that end racial discrimination at its restaurants,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.