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Watering flowers while Black: Pastor arrested after Karen calls cops

by Deon Osborne, Associate Editor
Watering flowers while Black: Pastor arrested after Karen calls cops
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Black Americans can now add watering flowers to the long list of mundane activities that cause some white folks to call the police. A Black Alabama pastor intends to file a lawsuit after he was wrongfully arrested while tending to his neighbor’s garden.

First reported by NPR, on May 22, 2022, The Rev. Michael Jennings, a 56-year-old pastor of 31 years, was watering petunias and hydrangeas when he was approached by a Childersburg Police officer, according to body camera footage. 

A neighbor called the police to report “suspicious activity” after seeing the Black man watering his neighbor’s garden in broad daylight.

“Hey man, how’s it going?” Jennings asked the officer as he approached, according to the video.

“Pretty good. What you doing here, man?” the officer responded.

Pastor Jennings explained to the officer that he’s “supposed to be here”, adding that he lives across the street and came over to water his neighbor’s garden while they were gone.

When the officer asks for his I.D., Jennings refuses. As the officers place him in handcuffs, Jennings says “do what you gotta do…It’s already a lawsuit.”

Black Alabama Pastor to Sue, Karen caller admits he’s a neighbor

“This is a case of police abuse, police intimidation and racial profiling,” Jennings lawyer, Harry Daniels told the New York Times on Tuesday. “Pastor Jennings was arrested illegally, and he was taken away from his family unlawfully.”

After placing the pastor in handcuffs, the officer walks over to the neighbor, a white woman, who called police. She admits that she recognizes him.

“He lives right there, and he would be watering their flowers. This is probably my fault,” she said.

Despite the woman’s statement, officers still arrest Jennings.

As they place him into a cop car Jennings says, “You are racial profiling.”

“We are not racial profiling,” the officer responded to the Black pastor. “No sir, we’re not about that.”

Full body cam footage obtained by NPR shows the officer asking Jennings how was he supposed to know Jennings was telling the truth.

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

Biden pledges billions more for police

Though the Childersburg Police Department dropped the charges in June, Jennings is moving forward with his lawsuit.

“I’m not anti-police,” Jennings told the NYT. “We need our police. We just need good police.”

News of the altercation comes as President Biden pledges to invest billions in funding for police as a way to increase public trust. While defending his plan, he acknowledged Black people in the U.S. distrust an institution that continues to kill people simply for living their lives. Yet, he attributed it to a few bad police officers, denying the problem is systemic.

The officer in the video has been identified as Jeremy Brooks. Neither the department nor the police chief responded to requests for comment from multiple media outlets.

Alabama law allows law enforcement officers to demand identification from anyone they suspect of committing a crime if that person is on public property. Jennings was on private property.

Despite the lawsuit, Jennings maintains that he holds no hate in his heart.

“The Bible teaches us to love thy neighbor,” he said. “Whether it’s the one you want to water their flowers for, or the one who calls the police on you.”

6 comments

DARRELL DISHMAN SR. August 31, 2022 - 11:36 pm

AMERICA 2022 U SEE HER…

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Jane Boak September 4, 2022 - 12:36 pm

I am embarassed to be white when I hear these stories. I assume the woman that called this in, is in fact blind, as she did not recognize her very good neighbour of longstanding. She is so blind that she only saw a black person who, in her blind eyes, must be up to no good.
She is blind to the waste of taxpayers dollars that went into the police work. She is blind to the unbelievable pain inflicted on this family as she casually mentions offhandedly, that “it must have been a mistake”!! She is blind to the damage caused by her ignorance. She is the blind to all the pain caused to those that have suffered this injustice all too many times and blind to the pain caused to all of us that are white who would never behave in such a manner towards our fellow man. The poor woman is blind!!!!
Perhaps now, she sees…………..do you?
I am so sorry Pastor that this happened. My apologies and I hope we all learn.

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D Man September 11, 2022 - 11:15 am

I am very much on the fence if not leaning towards the police did not do anything seriously wrong.

– The neighbor called out of concern of seeing a stranger there. She did not have binoculars to see who it was and was doing something I would want my neighbors to do if they potentially saw someone trespassing on my property.
– The pastor could have said his first name instead of just, “Pastor Jennings.”
– He said, “the house over there”, why not just say your address?

I feel as if the cops were trying to keep things simple, tried not to escalate upon first contact, and explained why they were there, etc.

I am not oblivious to all the crazy, unfortunate, and horribly wrong things that happen. However, in this case, things could have been cleared up with a matter of my name is and my address is.

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Jane Boak September 12, 2022 - 11:09 am

Valid points perhaps but please consider this; Pastor is a title and deserving of respect, Pastors are the leaders of Christian congregations who also gives advice and counsel to people from the community or congregation. Fact being, Pastor Jennings became his name when he took up the service folks. While I like to always consider other opinions, I remain thinking this was blatant disrespect to his title on behalf of the police. I might also ask what trespasser comes over to your house to water the gardens? If that is what they do, please trespass at my house Pastor, my flowers are wilting!

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When Being A Karen Backfires September 14, 2022 - 4:26 pm

[…] because there are many examples of White women weaponizing the police against Black people like: Karen calling police on a Black pastor for watering flowers, or SoHo Karen calling police on a Black 14-year-old for “stealing” her phone she lost, or […]

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D Man September 18, 2022 - 6:14 pm

I agree with you there. Pastor is a title and deserving of respect, but let’s not be silly. Intelligent criminals, certain people can throw many things out there. I live in New York. The random things that are happen with people getting sucker punched in broad dayligh, random subway crimes in the afternoon, carjacks, home invasions at any time of day…you cannot trust anyone who says they are a “pastor” and watering a lawn at first glance, in my opinion. I get it, he was not running, acting terribly suspicious, but in these times you cannot always take things at face value.

The facts are the neighbor called with good intent, and the officers went there NOT coming in hot. I do feel this could have been a much smoother outcome with a simple responses. Times have changed a bit of course, but police officers used to be a title deserving of respect too. Why not all parties be a little more respectful, including a pastor?

All I am saying is that the first officer attempted to deescalate things somewhat from the beginning and it could have been easily figured out with a simple name and address. When the other officers showed up, things went to crap horribly with him being arrested.

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