An Alabama father said he was eating with his 2-year-old son at a mall in suburban Birmingham when he was forced to leave after another child cried at the sight of him.
“I walked by a basket with these kids in it and they got to screaming and crying like I was trying to kidnap them,” father and comedian TeJuan Dennis told AL.com. “The dad walked up to me and said, ‘Hey, what did you to do my kids? You’re scaring my kids.”
Dennis filmed on Facebook Live as he was escorted by security out of Riverchase Galleria — the same mall where a policeman shot an innocent Black man in the back in 2018 — in Hoover, Alabama, on Tuesday. The footage has been viewed over a thousand times.
“I’m being put out the mall for being Black, for eating,” Dennis said in the video. “I can’t even come to the mall with my son and be Black and eat.”
But according to mall officials, the situation had nothing to do with race.
“We are aware of the video circulating but the individual prior to that was actually being very loud and disruptive. I understand there were profanities being yelled so that disruptive behavior is actually a violation of our code of conduct,’’ said mall spokeswoman Lindsay Kahn.
Dennis said he bought his son food then sat him down at a table in the food court of the mall on Tuesday, while he got up to order his own meal from a Chinese restaurant.
That’s when Dennis walked by a group of kids who began crying and screaming as he passed.
When the father of the children approached him, Dennis said, “I didn’t do nothing to your kids. I just walked past the basket and they started crying. That must be what you’re teaching them at home,’’ he recalled.
According to Dennis, the man and his family were of Middle Eastern descent. He told the man he’d noticed several white people walk by the kids and that the children hadn’t reacted to it.
“As soon as I walked past, they got to screaming and hollering. That shows me what you’re teaching them at home,” he said.
Dennis said the argument escalated and grew louder before a security guard approached and automatically accused him of wrongdoing, asking if he’d touched the kids.
Dennis said he’d only walked by. “I guess they’re scared of me because I’m a big Black man. I don’t know,” he recalled.
Security ultimately sided with the other man and Hoover police were called to escort Dennis out of the mall. Footage taken by Dennis shows that several other mall-goers walked out with him to ensure his safety.
“This woman right here was nice enough to walk with me to make sure nothing ain’t happen,” Dennis said as he was escorted out by officers. “Everyday I pray to God sh-t like this don’t happen to me and it just happened…I’m with my son, my two-year-old son!”
While recounting the events that had transpired, Dennis said, “I told the man, ‘don’t teach your kids no color bruh, everybody the same.'” Dennis said that during the incident his son didn’t understand what was happening but kept asking if his father was alright.
Dennis was escorted out of the mall and as he climbed into his vehicle, he said he noticed officers walking around the back of the car to check his license plate. “They calling in my license plate, they doing everything,” he said. One officer told Dennis, at the end of the video “If you come back in a year, you get arrested.”
Riverchase General Manager Mike White defended the handling of the situation, saying surveillance footage shows the other man did not act in an unacceptable manner as Dennis did.
“Nothing about his behavior, the witness’s statements, the security officers’ statements, anyone involved, nothing said this guy (the other man) was acting in the same manner,’’ White said. “The video is pretty clear.”
“Irrespective of how the altercation began,’’ he added, “the behavior of Mr. Dennis escalated to where it was a violation of the code of conduct.”