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Alabama Pastor Files Federal Lawsuit After Being Racially Discriminated Against in Arrest While Watering Flowers

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Michael Jennings, a Black pastor who was arrested as he was watering his neighbor’s flowers, announced that he’s filing a lawsuit against the three Alabama police officers who detained him, citing that his rights under the First and Fourth amendments were disrespected.

Announced on Saturday, Jennings, who was detained and charged after a neighbor falsely reported him as a “suspicious person,” also claimed wrongful arrest in his case against officers Christopher Smith, Justin Gable and Jeremy Brooks and the City of Childersburg, AL. He said the event has left him with “significant PTSD type symptoms,” such as depression, nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety. 

“I’m here today for there to be some accountability. I’m not here for revenge,” said Jennings at the press conference on Saturday. “I’m here for justice. Wrong is wrong.” 

In May, Jennings, a pastor of 31 years at the Vision of Abundant Life Church in Sylacauga, Alabama, was arrested after a 911 call was made by a neighbor who didn’t recognize him and saw him at another neighbor’s house. Video footage that has since gone viral shows Jennings watering the flowers and confirming to the police that he’s looking out for the neighbor’s house while they’re away. 

Despite Jennings already having provided his name, occupation and place of residence, the video shows the officers continuing to ask for identification and Jennings telling them that he wouldn’t provide it because he hadn’t done anything wrong. 

Even after interventions by the neighbor, who confirmed that she knew him from the neighborhood, and Jennings’ wife, who showed the officers her husband’s identification card, the pastor was detained and booked into Talladega County Jail. According to the lawsuit, he had to pay $500 bail to be released from police custody, according to the lawsuit. Charges of obstruction against Jennings were eventually dropped in June. 

According to Jennings, the whole event has left him feeling not only “ humiliated” and “dehumanized,” but also in pain for his wife and what the arrest forced her to go through.

“They sent her to Talladega when they knew I had to be bailed out at Childersburg,” said Jennings. “What hurt me is that my wife cried all the way there and all the way back. She never faced anything like this.” 

“For anybody that’s a real man, it hurts you when you can’t defend your family,” he added.

Moving forward, Jennings and his team are looking for “relief for the courts” and a jury trial to receive compensatory and punitive damages as well as recompense for the trial, according to Attorney Harry Daniels. 

Mainly, however, Daniels insists that the case is about standing up in the face of injustice. 

“This case is not about finances,” said Daniels at the press conference. “It’s about people and we as a people unite.” 

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