Protesters gather outside Waffle House HQ demanding apology - CBS46 News

Protesters gather outside Waffle House HQ demanding apology

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Source: WGCL Source: WGCL

Protesters marched to the Waffle House headquarters in Gwinnett County Friday and gathered at the main gates, demanding an apology from the restaurant chain after recent arrests which they claim were racially motivated.

Among the marchers was celebrity Phaedra Parks of Real Housewives of Atlanta. Two of the arrestees also joined the protest.

The frustration comes after at least three arrests at Waffle House restaurants in April and May.

On April 22, a video surfaced showing Chikesia Clemons being wrestled to the ground by officers at a Waffle House in Saraland, Alabama. The video went viral. In a post on Facebook, friends of Clemons said she was arrested after an argument with a Waffle House waitress over refusal to provide free plastic tableware. 

Police said employees called them because Clemons appeared to be drunk and that witnesses said they were afraid of her behavior. She was charged with disorderly conduct.

At the rally, Clemons spoke to reporters about the protesters' demands.

"Give us a public apology because we were humiliated all over the world and national, so we came here to get what we deserve," Clemons said.

On May 8, a video was posted to social media showing Anthony Wall, 22, in prom attire being arrested by an officer outside a Waffle House in North Carolina. The video showed the officer with his hand on Wall's neck and slamming him to the pavement. Wall had just taken his younger sister to her prom.

"Right is right and wrong," Wall said at Friday's protest. "If I knew I was treated right by that officer, I wouldn't be here today."

Another incident happened at a Pinson, Alabama location on the same day. Jacinda Mitchell says she was denied entry and posted video on Facebook, showing the doors locked and only white customers eating inside. 

In response to the recent incidents, a sit-in was held in Brookhaven, in which several people sat inside the restaurant, ordering only soft drinks as an apparent attempt to hurt the company's bottom line.

Organizers also plan to deliver a petition to Waffle House executives containing thousands of signatures supporting their effort.

A Waffle House spokesman released the following statement Friday following the protest:

As anyone who has dined with us knows, we have a very diverse customer base and workforce. We have had a culture of inclusion since we opened our doors in 1955, and are very proud of the fact that our restaurants have been open to all.  We understand the concern over these incidents, and welcome continued communication with the community, its leaders and the customers involved.

While we regret that the incidents happened at all, after reviewing all the available information, including witness statements and our own in-store videos, we believe that in the Saraland, Ala., and Warsaw, N.C., incidents our employees made the right decision to contact the police in light of safety concerns for the customers and themselves. 

Our review of the Fort Walton Beach, Fla., incident is continuing. However we think both sides could have handled this situation better. On our part, our employee could have done more to de-escalate the dispute before calling the police. The day after the incident, the customers came back to the restaurant, and we gave them a full refund. 

Yesterday, our CEO, Walt Ehmer, called to apologize to Ms. Sheffield, who was one of the customers involved in the Fort Walton Beach incident. We extend our apologies to all the customers who were in the restaurant that night. We have spoken to our employees in the restaurant and will be doing additional training for the team members of this restaurant on the proper way to handle situations like this. 

We hope that people will consider all the facts before making up their minds, and we stand ready to engage in open and constructive dialogue about our company, our values and our commitment to doing all we can to ensure that our customers have a great experience in our restaurants.

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