Black pastor arrested while watering neighbor’s flowers in Alabama

“What you doing here, man?” the white police officer asked an African American man quietly watering flowers in a front garden in Childersburg, Alabama.

“Watering flowers,” was the man’s reply.

Two minutes later, the man, the Rev Michael Jennings, 56, a pastor at the local Vision of Abundant Life church, was put into handcuffs. Three minutes after that he was placed in a police vehicle, under arrest for “obstructing governmental operations”.

The arrest, first reported by NPR, was captured on the police officer’s body camera. The man identified himself without being asked as “Pastor Jennings” and said he lived across the road.

He was told an anonymous neighbour had made a 911 call reporting “suspicious” activity outside the house of someone who had gone out of town.

“They say you are not supposed to be here,” the officer said.

“I’m supposed to be here,” Jennings replied. “I’m looking after their house while they’re gone, looking after their flowers.”

Asked by the police to show identification, Jennings, who had already identified himself, declined. Under Alabama law, officers are only allowed to stop a person in a public place and demand ID if they suspect a felony or other public offense has been committed.

Watering flowers is not listed under Alabama’s criminal code.

Jennings, who clearly was familiar with Alabama law, remained calm but firm.

“You have no right to approach me, I’ve done nothing wrong,” he said. “If you want to lock me up, lock me up, I’m going to continue watering these flowers.”

To which the officer said: “Look man, just calm down.”

The officer can be heard telling a fellow officer through his walkie-talkie: “We’ve got one that’s not listening to us.”

The final twist came as Jennings was being ushered into the police cruiser.

“You are racial profiling,” he told the officer.

“We are not racial profiling,” the officer said. “No sir, we’re not about that.”

When Jennings protested that he was just watering flowers, the officer asked: “How do I know that’s the truth?”

“Because I had a water hose in my hand,” Jennings said.

Later in the day the anonymous neighbour called the police back and said it was possible Jennings had been watering the flowers as a favour after all.

“This is probably my fault,” she said.

Childersburg police have dropped all charges.

Jennings told the New York Times he intended to file a lawsuit for unlawful arrest next week.

“I’m not anti-police, we need our police,” he said. “We just need good police.”

Published by anthonyhayble

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