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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.”
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“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.
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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.”