Two white police officers wrestled a Black woman to the ground at a Waffle House in Saraland, AL, exposing her breasts in the process. The men also choked her and told her they would break her arm if she didn't stop resisting arrest, according to a now-viral video of the incident early Sunday. The violent arrest has drawn comparisons to a racial-profiling incident last week where two Black men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, PA.
The video shows Chikesia Clemons, 25, sitting in a chair and speaking with Saraland Police officers briefly before the men pull her down to the floor of the Waffle House. While the officers try to flip her over to cuff her, she appears to be conscious of her top and tries to cover herself.
But as she struggles with the officers, her clothes come down, revealing her breasts while the rest of the patrons look on.
"What are you doing?" Clemons asked the officers. One of them responded: "I'll break your arm, that's what I'm about to do."
The video was shot by Canita Adams, a friend of Clemons. At one point, one the officers put his hands around Clemons neck, to which she yelled: "You’re choking me!"
Clemons' mother Chiquitta Clemons-Howard told AL.com that her daughter was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. According to the mother, the incident began because Clemons was told by a Waffle House employee that plastic utensils costs an additional 50 cents.
Clemons and Adams reportedly told the woman that they had not been charged additionally for the plasticware when they bought food from the same Waffle House the night before. The employee then allegedly cancelled the order and Clemons asked for the contact information of the food chain's district manager.
"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 said. "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 Mobile chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, better known as the NAACP, is making sure the incident is investigated. At the national level, the organization is also monitoring the situation.
"The violent arrest of Ms. Clemons is something that we can't let go," Ngozi Ndulue, the NAACP's senior director of Criminal Justice Programs, told Refinery29. "Often the conversation about police violence is focused on the treatment of Black men, and that's important, but we also know that Black women are at risk of police violence."
Ndulue said that it's important to talk about violent arrests like Clemons', but also of the issue of sexual assault Black women can face at the hands of police officers, like in the case of Charnesia Corley.
A spokeswoman with the Saraland Police Department announced Sunday that Clemons' arrest is being investigated.
"The Saraland Police Department is aware of the arrest at Waffle House and the accompanying video on social media," Det. Collette Little in a statement. "The situation is being thoroughly reviewed and is under active investigation right now. Our department strives for transparency and we encourage our community to be aware of current events."
But Ndulue said that an independent investigation into the arrest could be a better course of action.
"The evidence of police abuse shouldn't be investigated by the prosecutor that police works with day-to-day," she said. "There should be transparency about this. The information they're getting in their investigation should be released to the public in a timely manner."
She added that the public should know what, if any, disciplinary measures will be taken and what's the procedure around those.
"Seeing how this incident is actually handled is going to say a lot about whether the police department's investigation is serious about true accountability," she said.
Ndulue also said it's important for consumers to pay attention to the interaction between police departments and private businesses.
"This is a police problem, but also a societal problem. A lot of negative police interactions can start in the private sphere. We need to think about how businesses are showing an affirmative commitment to being places that we can go to without fear that at the slightest conflict law enforcement is going to be involved," she said. "We need to hold business owners and leaders accountable for the way they're treating us as consumers, and one of the things we have is the power of our purse. We can send the message that we're not willing to be treated as second class citizens."
The Alabama incident happened on the same day a gunman killed four people of color at a Waffle House in the Nashville metro area.
Refinery29 reached out to a Waffle House spokesperson for comment. We'll updated this story if we hear back.
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