A graphic video showing police officers wrestling a black 25-year-old Alabama woman before arresting her inside a Waffle House restaurant made the rounds on social media in April, sparking outrage across the country.
Police in Saraland, Alabama then said the department was “not choosing to take any action at this time” against the officers involved. But on Tuesday, the woman, Chikesia Clemons, was found guilty of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest Monday night.
“At the conclusion of the trial, a little before 10 p.m., Judge Mark Erwin said that Clemons was found guilty because the facts of the case met the legal definitions required to find a person guilty, and had nothing to do with the high level of emotion that had played out in the weeks and months before,” AL.com reported.
A black rights coalition group’s petition urging her charges be dropped garnered more than 50,000 signatures since April and was delivered to Saraland’s district attorney on June 19.
Activists with March for Our Lives, the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice and the NAACP gathered in protest at the restaurant chain’s metro Atlanta headquarters and issued demands in the case of Clemons, who was arrested around 2:45 a.m. on April 22 on charges of “disorderly conduct and resisting arrest,” her mother, Chiquitta Clemons-Howard, told AL.com. She paid her daughter’s $1,000 bond.
In the cell phone video, captured by Clemons’ friend, Canita Adams, Saraland Police officers are seen speaking with Clemons and then pulling her off a chair and onto the floor of the restaurant.
“What are you doing?” Clemons asks the officers in the video.
“I’ll break your arm, that’s what I’m about to do,” an officer responds.
Two officers are then seen wrestling with Clemons, grabbing her neck and wrist and trying to flip her over to arrest her. The altercation turns graphic as Clemons’ clothes are pulled down “to reveal her breasts as white patrons continue to eat in the background,” AL.com reported.
In the video, when the officer places his hand around her neck, Clemons cries, “You’re choking me!”
Chance the Rapper weighed in on Twitter. “Be infuriated,” he wrote.
According to AL.com, the incident arose after Clemons 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 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.”
Police in Saraland, Alabama, said in a news conference that they responded to a call from Waffle House employees about a woman who appeared drunk and was asked to leave for bringing in what employees believed to be alcohol, the Associated Press reported.
Police said that when they arrived on scene, witnesses told them that Clemons had indicated she may be armed and might shoot people. The department also released a photo of Clemons holding a garbage can at the police station and said she vomited into it.
“After reviewing our security video of the incident and eye witness accounts, police intervention was appropriate,” they initially said in a statement.
In a statement released by company spokesman Greg Rollings, Waffle House said it had information that “differs significantly” from Clemons’ claims.
Activists had demanded that the criminal charges against Clemons be dropped, that authorities release video of the incident that with audio and that Waffle House release a statement denouncing the way Clemons’ arrest was handled. They also demanded the company take “disciplinary action” against employees involved in the incident, the AJC previously reported.
The altercation and arrest came 10 days after two black men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia on trespassing charges.
Mobile, Alabama, NAACP President David Smith said in a statement soon after that the organization is looking into the event.
"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 first-hand account of the incident, which has now gone viral on social media locally and across the country," Smith said.
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