On June 22, a black family went to see the 7:45 p.m. showing of "Jurassic World" at the Cinemark at the intersection of 40th and Walnut streets. A couple hours later, they were surrounded by six police officers.
According to a report from Philly.com, the ordeal started an hour into the screening. Ismael and Ashley Jimenez left the theater to request a refund due to a loud beeping noise that kept going off near them, their four sons, and their two friends. Taking their youngest child with them, the couple had left the children to go to the lobby to ask for a refund.
After some negotiating, they were able to obtain a refund from the manager; however, they were then told that they could not reenter the theater to retrieve their young children and their friends, according to Mrs. Jimenez.
According to Mr. Jimenez, a 36-year-old school teacher from North Philadelphia, the manager called the police upon hearing they were going back to get their kids. One officer already stationed in the cinema followed and approached Mr. Jimenez while his wife entered the theater to gather the children.
When Mrs. Jimenez returned from the theater with the remaining children, she started filming her husband's encounter with the officer. Roughly 10 more officers showed up soon thereafter.
Mr. Jimenez said his 11-year old son, whom he has talked to about the potential dangers of interactions with police, grew frightened and ran to the bathroom to vomit.
An officer was eventually able to calm the situation and help the Jimenez family obtain a refund for concessions. No one was arrested.
Later when the family returned home, Mrs. Jimenez posted the encounter on the Facebook page for Black Lives Matter Philly, of which she is a member, and it has since been viewed more than 74,000 times.
Following the incident, police confirmed to Philly.com that officers responded to a “disturbance” around 9:40 p.m. on Friday but declined to comment further.
Cinemark did not respond to the incident until they released a statement to local television stations disputing Mrs. Jimenez's account that she was told she could not get the children and that the manager called the police when the family did not immediately leave, Philly.com reported.
“There was an erroneous social media report that mentioned the family was not permitted to return to the auditorium to retrieve their children,” the statement read. “At no time was the family restricted access to their children. A Philadelphia police officer, who was working security at the theater, was monitoring the situation and requested additional police presence.”
The police have since modified that statement, saying that numerous officers responded due to a "radio miscommunication," further adding that “no 911 call was made by theater staff regarding the incident.”
A week after the incident, on Friday June 29, the family and dozens of others rallied outside of the theater to call for a boycott of Cinemark and to highlight the broader issue of black citizens being reported to the police for minor or nonexistent issues.
Incidents such as these have emerged across the country in recent months. In April, two black men were arrested at a Starbucks located in downtown Philadelphia. In San Francisco, a white woman called the police on an eight-year-old black girl selling water, sparking the nation-wide internet trend #PermitPatty.
"My family’s experience at Cinemark 6 at 40th and Walnut on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania is a microcosm of the Black experience of men, women, and children throughout America," Mr. Jimenez said in a statement.
The Cinemark manager involved has since been dubbed #CinemarkSam.
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