Waffle House has not responded yet to the violent arrest of a black man by a white police officer in one of the chain’s North Carolina restaurants. But the NAACP Legal Defense Fund wants the restaurant and police to release the video and audio of what happened that night.
On May 5, Anthony Wall was choked and slammed to the ground by a police officer at a Waffle House in Warsaw, North Carolina after the 22-year-old took his 16-year-old sister to prom.
Three days later, Wall posted a video of the incident to Facebook and it went viral.
This is the second time in the last month that police have engaged in violence with customers at Waffle House restaurants.
Now the NAACP Legal Defense Fund is responding. President and director-counsel Sherrilyn Ifill issued a statement about what they called the "violent Waffle House arrest:"
“We’re once again outraged by a video showing police officers using excessive force on an unarmed, non-violent African-American Waffle House customer," the statement read. "Once again this incident was sparked when a Waffle House employee called the police after the patron allegedly complained about customer service. And once again the police responded with violence."
The incident involving Wall and the Warsaw officer comes just weeks after Chikesia Clemons, a black woman, was violently arrested at an Alabama Waffle House.
"Last month, in Saraland, Alabama, a customer’s mere questioning of why she was being charged extra for plastic utensils – when she never had before – appeared to spiral out of control after employees called the police," Ifill's statement read. "The dehumanizing arrest of Chikesia Clemons alarmed neither the Saraland Police Department nor Waffle House, who have both failed to accept any responsibility for potential wrongdoing and hold those at fault responsible."
“After a reported small disagreement at a Waffle House in Warsaw, North Carolina, it appears that employees unreasonably heightened the situation by calling local law enforcement. Twenty-two-year-old Anthony Wall, who had just taken his sixteen-year-old sister to prom, was then choked and violently thrown on the ground by Warsaw Police Officer Frank Moss. The officer’s actions were grossly inappropriate, and we call on the Warsaw Police Department and District Attorney to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation of the officer’s conduct by publicly releasing any body-worn and/or surveillance camera footage, as well as audio of the call for police service. The officer should also be placed on administrative duty during the investigation."
In both Wall and Clemons' cases, Ifill wrote that neither were armed and both were non-violent.
"Neither situation warranted police intervention, let alone such gratuitous use-of-force," Ifill wrote. "Waffle House must conduct an extensive review and overhaul of its policies to ensure that employees do not needlessly subject customers of color to police contact and brutality."
The Warsaw Police Department and District Attorney Ernie Lee are investigating the May 5 incident, Warsaw Police Chief Eric Southerland told The News & Observer on May 9. Lee said he has asked the the State Bureau of Investigation to assist.
In an interview with The News & Observer, Wall said he was at Waffle House with a group after taking his 16-year-old sister to prom. He said he and his sister argued with Waffle House employees and the police were called.
The argument began when a Waffle House employee cursed at people in his group after they sat at a table that had not been cleaned yet, he said. Then, Wall said, a waitress called the police.
It was unclear why Wall was choked or slammed by the officer. The video — which features strong language — does not show anything before the physical altercation. Wall had his arms raised above his head before the officer began to choke him.
In the video, Wall can be heard demanding the officer's supervisor.
Southerland said that is not how his officers are trained to behave.
Wall said he was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct for arguing with the Waffle House employees.
When asked if the officer's behavior in the video reflects what Warsaw officers are trained to do in such situations, Southerland said "no."
"It's not what you're trained to do in incidents like this but when you're dealing with someone fighting and resisting against an officer, you try to use proper tactics and go for one move, but that might not work because that person is moving or the officer is moving," Southerland said. "In real versus training situations, moves don't always work out like you want them to."
On May 10, Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter Bernice King, CEO of The King Center, reacted on social media to The News & Observer report of Wall's treatment by calling for people to avoid the restaurant chain until it commits to employee training and other changes.
In a tweet on May 10, King wrote: "Family, let's stay out of Waffle House until the corporate office legitimately and seriously commits to 1. discussion on racism, 2. employee training and 3. other plans to change; and until they start to implement changes."
Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. also shared the N&O story on May 10. On Facebook, Jackson wrote "Not again. #StopTheViolence #SaveTheChildren."
"Police officials are not a private security force for untrained Waffle House employees," the NAACP fund wrote in its statement. "Waffle House cannot continue to avoid this issue."
As of Thursday evening, Waffle House had not issued a statement on the North Carolina incident.