In tense meeting with activists, Waffle House again backs employees

Waffle House spokesperson Pat Warner, center, passes out a statement to protestors during an impromptu press conference at the Waffle House corporate campus headquarters in Norcross, Monday, April 30, 2018. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

In a tense Monday morning meeting with activists, Waffle House representatives doubled down on support for the employees whose calls to police led to a controversial arrest at an Alabama restaurant.

Multiple groups of activists gathered at Waffle House's metro Atlanta headquarters Monday, issuing demands in the case of Chikesia Clemons, the black woman whose violent arrest at a suburban Mobile location earlier this month has sparked online uproar.

The first-ever Waffle House restaurant opened in 1955 in Avondale Estates. But the chain’s corporate headquarters has been in Norcross for many years.

One group of activists which gathered there Monday, a coalition that included members of March for Our Lives, the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice and the NAACP, had four demands:

  • that the criminal charges against Clemons be dropped;
  • that authorities release video of the incident that includes audio, "which will prove officers threatened Ms. Clemons;
  • that Waffle House release a statement denouncing the way Clemons' arrest was handled;
  • and that Waffle House take "disciplinary action" against the employees involved in the incident.

That group has also called for a nationwide boycott of Waffle House to begin on Friday.

Representatives from another group called Street Peace America asked for Waffle House to cooperate with an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer protection division.

The dozen or so activists present were invited into Waffle House’s headquarters and shown a new surveillance video of the April 22 incident at the Waffle House in Saraland, Alabama. The video ended as police walked in and did not show what was revealed in previously released cellphone footage, which  showed 25-year-old Clemons being thrown to the ground and having her breasts exposed during a scuffle with several police officers.

According to Alabama news website, the incident arose after Clemons refused to pay an extra 50 cents for plastic utensils. Police have since said they believe Clemons’ arrest was justified, and Waffle House has previously defended police intervention in the incident as well.

Waffle House spokesman Pat Warner reiterated that stance Monday, saying employees are trained to contact police “anytime there is concern about their personal safety or that of their customers.”

“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,” a written statement handed out by Warner said, 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 statement said the chain’s investigation into the incident would conclude this week.

Monday's events also came a few days after Waffle House confirmed it was investigating the circumstances surrounding a separate incident at a location in Pinson, Alabama, where a black woman says she was denied service because of her race.

The chain is still recovering from a mass shooting that occurred at a restaurant in Nashville, Tenn., earlier this month as well.

Please return for updates.

A flyer calling for a boycott of Waffle House and advertising a press conference at the restaurant's Norcross corporate headquarters.

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