By Pharoh Martin NNPA National Correspondent
Tuesday, November 3, 2009 8:53 AM CST
(NNPA) - Because of a trip to Walmart three years ago, Heather Ellis is now fighting for her life. The 24-year-old former college student is facing felony charges that could get her up to 15 years in prison after being arrested for an incident that stemmed from her cutting a line at a Walmart in Kennet, Missouri.
The case is garnering national attention because of the racial underpinnings and perceived multiple injustices involved. It goes to trial Nov. 18. On November 16, the Your Black World Coalition, NAACP, American Civil Liberties Union, National Action Network, and Southern Christian Leadership Conference plan to converge on the small town of Kennett to protest and heighten the publicity.
Here’s what happened: On Jan. 6, 2007, Ellis and her cousin were sent on a midnight run to Walmart by her parents to pick up some items. With her cousin already standing in line near the register, Ellis tried to join him at the front of the line. That's when the clerk accused Ellis of cutting in front of other customers.
Customers behind objected and verbally accosted the then 21-year-old, according to Ellis' father Rev. Nathanial Ellis in an interview with the NNPA News Service. One White customer physically pushed the former college student. Ellis tried to explain that she was joining her cousin who was already in line and told the lady not to push her again. She was subsequently pushed again. The cashier would later refuse to ring Ellis up even after everybody else in line went through.
“The cashier stalled my daughter long enough for the night manager to come up,” Rev. Ellis explained. “My daughter paid with cash but she asked my daughter for an I.D. [Heather] said that she didn't need an ID because she paid with cash.”