Two police officers in Alabama wrestled a woman to the ground in a Waffle House on Sunday morning, exposing her breasts during the struggle and prompting comparisons to two black men arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks earlier this month.
The incident sparked a sit-in protest at the store Sunday afternoon and prompted responses from the NAACP and celebrities.
A video that has gone viral shows Chikesia Clemons, 25, sitting on a chair at the diner in Saraland, north of Mobile, as one of the officers grabs her neck and right wrist in an attempt to subdue her. Clemons describes a disagreement with a store employee that triggered the police response. She soon appears conscious of her tube top and raises her arms to cover her bust line.
“You’re not going to grab on me like that, no,” Clemons tells the officer, who appears to speak to another officer off-camera in the video filmed by Clemons’s friend, Canita Adams.
What happens next is unclear. AL.com published an edited version of Adams’s video that jumps to the moment Clemons and the two officers go to the ground in a violent tumble. It is unclear from the video who initiated the struggle that forced Clemons and the officers to the floor.
“What are you doing?” Clemons asks as the struggle continues on the tile floor.
“I’ll break your arm, that’s what I’m about to do,” an officer says.
The struggle continues, with officers demanding Clemons to stop “resisting” as her breast is exposed.
At one point, an officer places his hand around her neck.
“You’re choking me!” Clemons cries out.
The officer releases his grip when a third officer nearby gestures with his hand. Clemons was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, her mother Chiquitta Clemons-Howard told AL.com.
One person was arrested at a protest outside the store where Clemons was arrested, AL.com reported.
Sunday’s arrest comes 10 days after the April 12 incident of two black men arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia under allegations of trespassing. The two men were not charged and were later released, but the viral moment led to an apology from Starbucks’s chief executive Kevin Johnson and a decision to close down all of its more than 8,000 company-owned stores for an afternoon in May for racial-bias training.
Clemons-Howard told AL.com the dispute arose after her daughter 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 the outlet. “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.”
Clemons, Clemons-Howard and Adams could not be reached for comment.
The Saraland Police Department did not return a request for comment and told AL.com it was investigating the incident. It is unclear who called the police.
In a statement to AL.com, Waffle House spokesman Pat Warner said the company is evaluating the incident but believes there is reason to doubt Clemons’s version of events.
“[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,” he told the outlet.
The Mobile chapter of the NAACP told AL.com it was also gathering information about the incident.
“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,” chapter president David Smith said.
Chance the Rapper also weighed in on Monday.
“Protect our women. This is wrong, this is unjust and this happens to alot of women when there are NO cameras around. Stand with our women. Defend their voice, and their right to ask why they’re being handled, being removed, being CHOKED. Be infuriated. Be willing to fight,” he wrote on Twitter. He included a link to the video and emoji of a middle finger and a pig snout in an apparent insult to police.
The Alabama incident came the same day a gunman killed four people with an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle at a Waffle House outside Nashville and fled the scene. That manhunt is ongoing.