Graphic video of a 25-year-old black woman taken to the ground by three white Alabama police officers during a controversial arrest Sunday morning at a Waffle House has sparked outrage online and in the local community, prompting protests and sit-ins, NBC affiliate WPMI reported.
Cell phone video posted to Facebook shows Saraland police officers wrestling the woman to the ground as her clothes slip down, exposing her bare breasts while patrons looked on. Chikesia Clemons can be heard repeatedly asking the officers what she did wrong, video shows.
A Waffle House employee called police around 2:30 a.m. Sunday after Clemons asked for a manager's contact information when her order was canceled over her objections of being charged an additional fee for plastic utensils, according to Al.com. Clemons told the employee that in a previous visit she was given them free of charge.
"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' mother, Chiquitta Clemons-Howard told reporters Sunday. "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."
Video captured by Clemons' friend Canita Adams shows one of the officers confronting the woman sitting on a chair and trying to grab her arms as Clemons maintains that she had done nothing wrong. Clemons tells the officer she was waiting to be given a regional manager's phone number.
At one point, she is forcibly pulled off the chair and taken to the ground by two officers as her dress slips down, exposing her breasts, another video shows. Clemons appears to try to cover herself with her arms as officers attempt to roll her over and search her.
When she demands to know what they are doing, an officer responds, "I'll break your arm, that's what I'm about to do."
Clemons was booked on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, according to Clemons-Howard, Al.com reported.
After videos of the incident were posted to Facebook Sunday morning, protesters gathered at the Waffle House on Industrial Parkway demanding answers. At least one demonstrator was handcuffed, Al.com reported.
"What I want actually is to get justice for my daughter in this case. I don't feel that she was treated fairly. I think the things that were showed were very offensive not only to me as a woman but to my child,” Clemons-Howard told WPMI.
The Saraland Police Department issued a statement Sunday morning stating that they were aware of the arrest at the Waffle House and videos, but weren't able to comment futher on an ongoing investigation.
"Our department strives for transparency and we encourage our community to be aware of current events. Saraland’s public safety director, Chief J.C. West, and the mayor are aware of the situation and are awaiting the results of the investigation. When the facts of the investigation are gathered, we will have a response," the department added.
Waffle House did not respond to NBC News' request for comment, but a spokesman told Al.com Monday 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."
The incident follows the arrest this month of two black men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia within minutes of their arrival. That case, for which Starbucks' CEO has apologized, and another recent example of police being called to a New Jersey gym where a black member was working out with a guest, have put a national focus on what has been called "retail racism." Also referred to as "shopping while black," it's the experience of being treated differently than white customers, whether by being refused service, followed or falsely accused of doing something wrong.