The arrest of 25-year-old Chikesia Clemons at a Saraland Waffle House is continuing to envelop the arresting officers’ department and the corporate restaurant chain in controversy.
An African-American woman, Clemons was arrested by three white officers from the Saraland Police Department after an early morning disturbance April 22 that left Clemons in handcuffs and the 24/7 breakfast chain facing calls for a national boycott.
Footage of Clemons’ arrest quickly spread online, perhaps because it ended with her partially nude on the restaurant floor after she was wrestled to the ground by two unidentified SPD officers. In the scuffle, Clemons’ breasts became exposed over the top of her shirt and an officer told her “I’m about to break your arm.”
According to SPD, police were called to the Waffle House at around 2 a.m. because Clemons and two others brought in an outside beverage, which the wait staff believed to be alcoholic. They also say Clemons threatened employees with physical violence after the group was asked to leave.
To the contrary, Clemons’ family maintains she was only trying to file a corporate complaint after a disagreement about a 50-cent charge for plastic utensils. Waffle House has since acknowledged this isn’t a company practice.
Investigators with SPD say they spoke with eight witnesses, two of whom were black, about the events leading to Clemons’ arrest. They also presented a recording of an employee’s call to police apparently corroborating the allegation Clemons’ group “came in with alcohol.”
However, Clemons’ attorney, Benjamin Crump, released signed statements from two other witnesses — both white women — who say the waitress was “just as loud” as Clemons when the pair was arguing and heard no threats by Clemons or her friends.
Her supporters have also noted the call to police mentioned nothing about threats of violence, a gun or Clemons’ alleged statement that she could “come back and shoot this place up.”
“The first officer came in, he went straight for [her], pushed her against the glass window and sat her down by force. He did not say anything to her, nor did he extend her the courtesy of asking her to step outside so he could understand what was going on,” a witnesses wrote. “The way they tossed her to the ground was extremely hard and completely unnecessary.”
Calls for a national boycott of all Waffle House restaurants picked up steam after the company issued two statements standing by its employees and the actions of the Saraland police. The corporation’s public relations nightmare grew after another video surfaced online last week depicting an African-American locked outside of the famously always-open restaurant while several white customers ate inside.
On Tuesday evening, after this publication’s press deadline, national civil rights activist and television show host Rev. Al Sharpton was in Mobile for a community meeting about Clemons’ arrest and what he billed as other concerns with the actions of local police — the third such meeting since the April 22 incident occurred.
At another meeting held April 26 by the Mobile County Chapter of the NAACP, President David Smith sought information about other incidents involving the SPD. No one made specific allegations against SPD, but many raised concerns about police officers’ treatment of minorities in general.
Clemons made her first public appearance on Sharpton’s MSNBC cable program, “PoliticsNation,” over the weekend along with her attorney. She did not speak to the details of her encounter with SPD because she still faces charges for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
However, she did discuss the effects of the arrest.
“It’s just so hard on me. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep,” she told Sharpton on the program. “I’m constantly crying. I have a 6-year-old daughter I’m trying to be strong for, but she sees me crying and she starts crying.”
As he has before, Crump said the SPD’s handling of the situation violated his client’s “civil and human rights” — claiming the officers involved “assaulted, threatened, choked and body slammed an unarmed black woman” over 50-cent plastic utensils.
On the same program, Sharpton decried discussions about Clemons’ arrest record as an “assault” on her character, though he did — as several others have online — bring up the criminal history of the woman many believe to have called the police on Clemons.
That woman is Goldie Faye Tindle, 48, who has several previous criminal charges in Mobile County for the possession and distribution of controlled substances. Her mugshot and record have been shared widely, but neither Waffle House nor SPD have confirmed her employment.
Clemons does mention a “Goldie” by name in the video of her arrest, though it sounds like the female employee in the recording released by SPD identifies herself by another name.
As for Clemons, she has also been arrested several times locally on misdemeanor charges, at least two of which appear to have stemmed from incidents similar to the April 22 incident in Saraland.
According to the Mobile Police Department, Clemons was arrested in 2011 after a fight at an Applebee’s on Airport Boulevard and was later charged with third-degree assault.
In 2017, she was charged with theft and harassment after a fight at a BP service station on Dauphin Street.
“The victim stated she and suspect Chikesia Clemons got into a verbal altercation and began fighting,” MPD spokeswoman Charlette Solis wrote. “The victim stated after she and Clemons ceased fighting, Clemons then stole her cell phone and wallet off the hood of her vehicle.”
The only other significant charge on Clemons’ record is a third-degree domestic violence arrest from 2016 where “the victim sustained a minor injury.” According to MPD, the circumstances leading to that arrest are unclear. Though an initial arrest report included a second misdemeanor labeled as “menacing [knife],” Clemons was never formally charged in the incident.
Records that may help determine the conclusion of those charges weren’t available in the state’s online judicial filing system, Alacourt.
So far, SPD has given no indication it intends to take disciplinary action against the officers who arrested Clemons. The department also has yet to identify the officers involved or respond to requests from Crump to have an independent third party investigate the arrest as well.
Coverage of this story will continue as it develops at lagniappemobile.com.