A police association just attacked a Black teenager working at Arby’s. They said he refused to serve a police officer, demanded he be fired.
Arby admits he didn't do it but suspended him anyway. Demand that Arby’s apologize and let Kenneth Davenport get back to work.
A powerful Florida police union — Dade County Police Benevolent Association — is attacking Kenneth Davenport, a 19-year-old Black teenager working at Arby's. The police union demanded that Davenport be fired for refusing to serve a police officer — something he never did. Arby's admitted he did nothing wrong, but suspended him anyway.1
This is an outrageous example of how police associations paint police as victims, use bullying tactics to attack and smear people they identify as enemies, and shut down criticism of police practices. In this case, Davenport wasn't even criticizing police — he was just doing his job. But officer Martin and her police group saw a convenient opportunity to be "outraged," and a convenient scapegoat in Davenport, a Black teenager. Now, Davenport's career may be damaged because the police union chose to attack him over nothing.
We can't let this go unchallenged: Arby's needs to hear that we won't let them get away with helping police smear innocent Black youth.
Join us in demanding that Arby's reinstate Kenneth Davenport immediately, apologize to him, and clear his name.
When officer Jennifer Martin rolled up the Arby's drive through, Davenport had to ask for help from a manager because he was overwhelmed with orders from other customers. Davenport's manager then allegedly said to officer Martin "he doesn't want to serve you because you are a police officer" — a joke, according to Davenport.2 The police group accused Davenport of refusing service to a police officer, and called for a national boycott of Arby's unless Davenport and his manager were fired.3 Arby's responded by suspending Davenport, firing his manager, and offering free meals to police officers.4
Arby’s is trying to have it both ways. While their statement says that Davenport didn’t do anything wrong — that he actually tried to rectify the situation — Arby’s is sending the opposite message by suspending him.They’re trying to give the police what they want, and in the process, they’ve damaged the reputation of a Black teenager who is just trying to work for a living.
Their calculation is clear — they would rather throw a young Black man under the bus than risk being on the wrong side of the police. But Arby’s makes a lot of money from Black consumers and from the labor of its Black employees — they need know that we can hold them accountable.
It's hard not to see this as part of a coordinated effort by police groups across the country to paint young Black people as violent and anti-police. Police officials have recently been trying to blame Black Lives Matter for murders of police officers, but there’s no evidence the murders have anything to do with Black Lives Matter.5,6 Police are trying to undermine the movement for police accountability by saying that it’s encouraged violent attacks against police. The truth is that there’s been no increase in violence against police: there were actually more murders of police officers last year, before the Black Lives Matter movement took off.7
Nevertheless, police officials and police associations are succeeding in getting the media to paint police as victims and young Black people as aggressors.8 And the more they succeed, the harder it will be to push for real reform to stop the epidemic of police violence and abuse against Black communities.
Please join us in demanding that Arby’s stop helping police attack Black youth. Demand that they apologize to Kenneth Davenport and let him get back to work.
Police unions’ war on accountability
If there’s one force in this country most responsible for protecting killer cops and blocking accountability, it’s police unions. While unions have long been key for protecting the human and legal rights of workers, the way many police unions operate is bad for law enforcement. They defend cops who kill and abuse their power, create policies that help the police get away with just about anything, and attack any effort at reform. They viciously attack politicians, decision-makers, activists, and everyday people who dare to oppose them publicly.
Another police union in the Miami area recently publicly attacked and smeared a woman who recorded video of police beating a young Black man after arresting him.9
Police associations have won reinstatements for officers guilty of domestic violence, on-duty intoxication, attacking protesters, torturing non-violent suspects, and killing unarmed citizens.10,11 When officers who commit these crimes are reinstated to their jobs, they often receive back pay for the time they were off the police force. Officers are left with the impression that it’s almost impossible to lose their job – which is true.
Part of police unions’ strategy is to cultivate a sense that police are victims who are constantly under attack. Creating this narrative in the media helps them win their political battles. Their recent attack on Kenneth Davenport is clearly a part of this strategy.
So it’s shocking but not surprising that Dade County Police Benevolent Association would use a young Black worker as a pawn in their war against everyone who is demanding that police face greater accountability and reform. But it’s totally unacceptable for Arby’s — a major corporation that depends on Black consumers — to throw their Black employees under the bus just to appease the police groups. If enough of us speak out now, we can publicly challenge the power of police associations, and make Arby’s pay a price for helping police attack Black youth.
Join us in demanding that Arby’s publicly apologize to Kenneth Davenport and reinstate him immediately.
Thanks and Peace,
Rashad, Arisha, Lyla, Shani and the rest of the ColorOfChange team.
1. “Arby's makes decision on clerk accused of denying officer service,” CBS News, 9-4-2015
2. “Arby's employee accused of denying officer service speaks out,” CBS News, 9-3-2015
3. “Police Union calls for Arby's boycott after officer snubbed,” CBS News, 9-2-2015
4. See reference 1.
5. “Black Lives Matter rhetoric under scrutiny in Texas 'assassination',” Christian Science Monitor, 8-30-2015
6. “Police union official critical of 'disgusting' chant at Black Lives Matter march,” Star Tribune, 8-31-2015
7. “5 Things To Tell Anyone Who Blames Black Lives Matter For Violence Against Cops,” Huffington Post, 9-3-2015
8. “Fox News Suggests Black Lives Matter Is A 'Murder' Movement, 'Hate Group',” Huffington Post, 9-1-2015
9. “Miami police union targets woman for posting video of alleged police brutality,” RT, 8-15-2015
10. “How Police Unions and Arbitrators Keep Abusive Cops on the Street,” The Atlantic, 12-2-2014
11. “Making The Police Less Powerful,” Forbes, 11-28-2014