- Supporters of Heather Ellis gather on the Dunklin County Courthouse steps on Monday, Nov. 16, 2009, in Kennett, Mo. (AP Photo/Daily Dunklin Democrat, Deanna Coronado)
- by Brenda L. Jones – MSNBC’s TheGrio.com
When hundreds of people rallied outside a Wal-Mart in Kennett, Missouri Monday, they did so to protest the treatment by police and local prosecutors of Heather Ellis, the now infamous 24-year-old African-American college student who three years ago made a routine trip to that very same Wal-Mart to run some errands and ended up leaving in handcuffs after being accused of cutting a checkout line.
Led by civil rights activist Dr. Boyce Watkins and a coalition of civil rights organizations including the ACLU, the protesters marched to the Dunklin County Courthouse where, beginning today, Ellis, a Kennett native whose father still serves the Church in God in Christ congregation in town, will find herself fighting for her freedom after being charged with multiple felonies that could land her up to 15 years in prison. They were there to decry what Ellis has said was the abhorrent treatment she received from both her fellow shoppers and police. In a complaint she filed with the NAACP, Ellis says she was pushed by a white customer, hassled by store employees and called racial slurs by police who physically mistreated her. The police were called to the scene after Ellis and her cousin got into two separate checkout lines, and after Ellis joined her cousin when one line started moving faster than the other.