Is there anything that black people can do in America without having the cops called on them?
The latest case of “[insert normal activity] while black” involves three black actresses who were forcibly removed from a restaurant bathroom by a security guard because they were taking too long.
Erica Walker, Brittany Marie Lucio, and Asia’h Sharrell Epperson — a former finalist on “American Idol” and an actress on the television series “Greenleaf” — recently arrived at a Houston’s restaurant in Atlanta to use the restroom. Although the establishment was closed for dining, the women were granted access to use the facilities.
However, after 10 minutes had passed, the shift manager tried to get the women to leave the restroom. When they did not immediately oblige, he called a security guard to forcibly escort them out.
The guard, Jay Guzman, happens to also be a police officer, but he was not on police duty at the time of the incident. According to The Grio, the officer admitted to grabbing Lucio by the wrist in an attempt to “lead” her out the back door, however, video footage from the incident suggests he was much more forceful than he claims.
All three women were ultimately arrested and charged with criminal trespass. Lucio also faces a felony obstruction charge. They were taken to Fulton County Jail following their arrests.
In the aftermath, Lucio shared photos of injuries she sustained as a result of the officer’s alleged excessive use of force. The woman appears to have cuts, bruises, and a black-eye, which she alleges were all inflicted by Guzman.
“We are seriously concerned with the level of force that was used, and we want answers to why they ended up in the bushes,” said attorney Gerald Griggs, who is representing the women.
In response to why his clients didn’t comply with the guard’s orders to exit the restroom, Griggs asserted that using the restroom isn’t always a speedy process.
“You can’t just leave the restroom after you just finish using it. You have to wash your hands. Have to make sure that you have taken care of all of your needs,” he said.
After this latest incident, boycott threats have resurfaced.
Atlanta-based rapper T.I. — who just made headlines last week after getting arrested outside his home — caught wind of the Houston’s incident and condemned the establishment in a series of social media posts.
“Absolutely unacceptable behavior!!!!” he wrote Tuesday on Instagram.
In the midst of the backlash, Houston’s issued a statement detailing their account of what unfolded.
“The evidence we have seen thus far shows that three women arrived approximately 30 minutes after closing time, they went into the restroom as a group after being told that the restaurant was closed. The three stayed in the restroom for more than 10 minutes, and refused to leave despite repeated requests from several managers to do so. Eventually, an off-duty Atlanta Police Officer was summoned with whom one or more of the women got into an altercation that led to arrests. Based on our current understanding, we believe our managers responded appropriately to this unfortunate situation.”
The Atlanta police have launched an investigation into the situation with which Houston’s maintains it is fully cooperating. Nevertheless, their statement suggests that the actresses were in the wrong. Guzman also claims Lucio punched him in the head while he was trying to escort her out.
Griggs is fighting for his clients, however, and requesting all the charges against them be dismissed. He is also calling for Guzman to be put on unpaid leave as the department conducts its investigation.
Although it is yet to be seen how this all plays out, it appears that the women, their attorney, and T.I. are not letting this issue go without a fight. It is clear, though, that the situation should have never escalated this far. The actresses should have been allowed to finish their business and exit on their own.
The restaurant's own statement doesn't indicate that the women were causing a disturbance, therefore, it seems rather absurd that they were being rushed out in the first place. Furthermore, if the establishment has a time limit on how long people can use the restrooms, the women should have been notified of the policy upon entering.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson