Black Alabama pastor Michael Jennings has filed a lawsuit against police after being arrested for watering his neighbor’s flowers.
According to the Associated Press, Jennings filed a federal lawsuit against three officers and Childersburg, Alabama, after he was arrested for watering his neighbor’s flowers. He reportedly filed on Sept. 9, alleging the incident violated his constitutional rights and caused him emotional distress and anxiety.
In the suit, Jennings alleged that officers Christopher Smith and Justin Gable, Sgt. Jeremy Brooks and Childersburg violated rights protecting against unlawful arrest and guaranteeing free speech. He additionally cited several ongoing issues, including humiliation and post-traumatic stress disorder. As such, he’s requested a jury trial and is seeking an unspecified amount of money.
“I’m here for accountability, and I’m here for justice,” the pastor said at a news conference held by his lawyers on Sept. 10. They reportedly held the press conference at Birmingham federal courthouse to discuss his lawsuit that day.
Jennings was reportedly arrested in May after a white neighbor called 911 and told dispatchers that a “younger Black male” and a gold SUV were at a home while the owner was away. The homeowner was a friend of the Alabama man and had allegedly asked him to watch their property while out of town.
When police arrived at the scene, he refused to provide them identification but identified himself as “Pastor Jennings.” They then got into a confrontation with him for 20 minutes, and he was later arrested on a charge of obstructing government operations.
The charge, dismissed in June, was reportedly filed in municipal court but was eventually dismissed within days at the request of the then-police chief. Jennings’ lawyers released police body camera footage in August that was obtained after a records request to Childersburg. In the footage, an officer is seen approaching the pastor as he watered plants, asking him what he was doing. Jennings responds, “watering flowers,” and eventually tells the officer that his neighbors asked him to water the plants while they were away.
“These poor judgment decisions reflect poorly on the type of training the Childersburg police officers receive…if they were acting in accordance within police guidelines,” the president of the Alabama branch of the NAACP, Benard Simelton, said in a statement. The organization reportedly planned a rally after the recent press conference held on Jenning’s behalf.