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It seems that every week we’re hit with another example of the police being called on Black people just living their lives.

Case in point: On Mother’s Day, three Black women using the bathroom at an Atlanta Houston’s were arrested for being in the bathroom “too long.”

According to 11 Alive News, Erica Walker, Brittany Marie Lucio and Asia’h Sharrell Epperson, a former finalist on American Idol and an actress on Greenleaf, entered the restaurant after the kitchen was closed and had the police called on them for using the bathroom for roughly ten minutes.

A police report claims that after a cop told the women to leave, they refused, which prompted the officer to grab Lucio and drag her out. From there, the officer claims that Lucio hit him in the face, cutting his lip.

An employee at the restaurant called for more police to come, claiming that the officer was being attacked. However, the video, shot by Epperson, shows a different story.  In it, the officer is repeatedly assaulting the unarmed women. When more police show up, all three were arrested for criminal trespassing with Lucio charged with felony obstruction.

In order to get the women’s side of the story, HelloBeautiful sat down with Lucio’s attorney, Gerald A. Griggs. He stresses that the women were wrongfully arrested, the police report filed is filled with “inaccuracies” and this type of ill-treatment toward African-American patrons at Houston’s is a consistent problem.

HelloBeautiful: In layman’s terms, what happened?

Gerald Griggs: First, I want to say that what happened to these women was ridiculous.

These women were attending a day party across the street from the Houston’s restaurant. They walked over to catch and Uber and realized that they had friends that were dining inside the restaurant. So they went to the hostess station, who told them the kitchen was closed. The women asked if they could the bathroom, the hostess said yes.

They were in the bathroom for 7-10 minutes. The hostess came in and told them they needed to leave. Two of them were washing their hands, while the third woman was still in the stall. They didn’t want to leave her in there alone. They told her they were almost done.

Later, the police officer came in, told her the restaurant is closed, dragged her out, and physically assaulted her in the bushes outside. Mind you, the restaurant wasn’t closed: There were people in there still eating.

HB: Now, the police report claims that Lucio hit him in the face. Is your client guilty of assaulting an officer?

GG: No. My client is not guilty of ever hitting that officer. It never happened. The video confirms that, as do witnesses at the scene. That police officer punched my client in the face, she has the black eye and bruises to prove that.

HB: This incident happened over a week ago. How have the women being coping?

GG: They are still shaken up and very concerned, but they are resolute in fighting to clear their names. We want for all charges against these women to be dropped.

We are also calling for an independent investigation against the police officer involved and for him to be placed on leave, without pay. Then, we want him terminated and criminally charged.

There is no reason why that level of violence was inflicted against these women. That, and it’s against police policy here to have a male officer detain these women in this way. A female officer should have been called in. Also, in the state of Georgia, you can resist arrest if the officer hasn’t articulated the crime you are supposedly committing. At one point, he even told them they weren’t under arrest, so why is he putting his hands on any of them? This officer was clearly operating outside of Georgia law.

One last thing: Atlanta’s Police Department has implemented body cams. Where’s his footage? Why didn’t he have his camera on?

HB: You’ve also claimed that the police report had some inaccuracies in it. Can you elaborate?

GG: First, he misspelled my client’s name and as I said before, he claimed my client struck him, which we have no evidence to back up that claim. What we do have is video that shows he was the aggressor.

And if the inaccuracies were done on purpose, to hide what happened, we have a serious problem. Willfully falsifying documents is against the law.

HB: What about Houston’s? They’ve said in a statement that they believe their managers “responded appropriately to this unfortunate situation.”

GG: Their response is what’s unfortunate.

But this isn’t the first time that Houston’s in Atlanta has been accused of racial discrimination, which is why they had to do a racial sensitivity training a few months ago. And here we are back to their same old ways.

We are demanding a meeting with Houston’s CEO and their legal team and if we don’t get a meeting, they can expect for us to call a boycott, like what happened before [when rapper T.I. called for one in October of 2017]. We also want for the company to look into any employee involved and if they have violated any of the restaurant’s policies, they need to be fired immediately.

HB: This type of treatment seems to be a growing trend. 

GG: There is no reason why in this day and age, we as African-Americans should tolerate this type of treatment of our African-American women. We need to stand up and say enough is enough. We need to be in the streets demonstrating and showing places like Houston’s, Waffle House and Starbucks our economic power by withholding our dollars from corporations that don’t respect Black and brown bodies.

***

HelloBeautiful also reached out to the Atlanta Police Department to speak about the incident. We will provide their statement as they soon as they provide us with one. 

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