Police Defend Violent Arrest of Black Woman at Alabama Waffle House

An Alabama police department said Monday that three white police officers who threw a black woman onto the floor of a Waffle House during an arrest on Sunday, threatened to break her arm, placed a hand on her throat and exposed her breasts, had acted appropriately.

The officers, from the Saraland Police Department, were sharply criticized after a cellphone video of the confrontation was posted on Facebook, with some calling them racist and overly aggressive. The footage starts with one of the officers standing over the woman, Chikesia Clemons, and trying to place her right arm behind her back as she sits in a chair.

The video then skips ahead, picking up as two officers grab Ms. Clemons’s arms and shoulders and toss her onto the restaurant floor. “What are you doing,” Ms. Clemons yells at the officers, as they try to bend her arms behind her back.

“About to break your arm, that’s what I’m about to do,” an officer replies.

During the scuffle, Ms. Clemons’s strapless shirt comes undone, exposing her breasts in the middle of the restaurant. When she is handcuffed, an officer turns to her friend Canita Adams, who is recording the video, and says, “You want to come fix her clothes?”

Within hours of the video being posted online, members of the local N.A.A.C.P. chapter and others began protesting at the Waffle House, which is just north of Mobile, Ala., comparing the episode to the arrest of two black men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia this month.

“I don’t feel like she was treated fairly,” her mother, Chiquita Clemons-Howard, said at an N.A.A.C.P. meeting on Sunday evening. “I want to get justice for my daughter.”

David Smith, the president of the Mobile County N.A.A.C.P., did not respond to a message seeking comment on Tuesday.

In an odd coincidence, the arrest of Ms. Clemons occurred at about 3 a.m. on Sunday, around the same time a man armed with a rifle opened fire in a Waffle House outside Nashville, killing four young people of color and injuring four others.

Ms. Clemons, who was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, and Ms. Adams, who was not arrested, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. Ms. Clemons-Howard, who told the Alabama news media that she was speaking on her daughter’s behalf, did not return a call seeking comment.

After the Starbucks arrest, the Philadelphia police chief apologized, as did Starbucks’s chief executive, and the company announced it would shut down 8,000 stores in the United States for a day next month for racial-bias training. The arrest in Saraland, Ala., has not drawn the same reaction from Waffle House.

Both the Police Department and Waffle House have said that the cellphone video did not show the full story and that the officers acted appropriately and had reason to arrest Ms. Clemons. A Waffle House spokesman said “police intervention was appropriate.”

On Monday afternoon, the Police Department released a portion of a 911 call from a Waffle House employee and footage from two security cameras inside the restaurant.

In the 911 call, the worker said her manager had asked her to call because two women and a man acting “drunk and disorderly” had arrived with alcohol and were refusing to throw it away. The security footage had no audio but showed Ms. Clemons, 25, and Ms. Adams, 26, pointing and yelling at employees.

At a news conference on Monday, Detective Brian Mims said the women were cursing and threatening them.

“‘You ain’t going to be here tomorrow,’” Detective Mims said the women told employees. “‘I may have a gun. I may have anything. I can come back up here and shoot this place up if I need to.’”

When the officers arrived, Detective Mims said, Ms. Clemons refused to comply with their orders and resisted placing her hands behind her back. He said her race played no role in what happened.

“Based on the interviews conducted,” he said, “it was based solely on that they were asked to take their beverages out and not to consume them on premises.”

The Police Department did not release the names of the officers but said that none of them would be disciplined.

Ms. Clemons’s mother told AL.com that the encounter on Sunday morning had started over plastic utensils. The women asked for plastic ware with their meal, her mother said, but a waitress told them that the utensils cost 50 cents extra. When Ms. Clemons and Ms. Adams objected and said they had not been charged for them in the past, the waitress canceled their order, Ms. Clemons-Howard said.

The police arrived when the women were trying to get the name of a Waffle House supervisor to file a complaint, Ms. Clemons-Howard said. “The footage shows the story completely,” she told AL.com, referring to the cellphone video.

Detective Mims said Monday that the waitress was following Waffle House policy to charge customers for plastic ware if they plan to dine at the restaurant. A company spokesman did not immediately answer an email seeking comment about its plastic ware policy.