NEW YORK, Oct 26 (Reuters) - New York civil rights leaderson Saturday decried the city's brewing "shop-and-frisk" scandal,in which major retailers Barneys and Macy's are accused ofprofiling black shoppers who say they were detained by policeafter buying luxury items.
Also on Saturday, rap star Shawn "Jay Z" Carter defended hispartnership with Barneys after coming under pressure to cut tieswith the company.
"We've gone from stop-and-frisk to shop-and-frisk," said theReverend Al Sharpton, president of National Action Network,alluding to a police crime-fighting tactic that critics sayamounts to racial profiling.
A representative of Sharpton's group is set to meet nextweek with Mark Lee, the chief executive of Barneys New York,following allegations from two black shoppers that they weredetained by New York police and accused of fraud after buyingluxury items at Barneys.
In a third such allegation this week, actor Rob Brown ofHBO's "Treme" told New York's Daily News on Friday he had been"paraded" through a Midtown Manhattan Macy's in handcuffs inJune, and held for an hour, after purchasing a $1,350 goldMovado watch for his mother.
Brown said he came forward after reading news accounts ofothers who had similar experiences at Barneys.
He told the newspaper he "implored" police to check his ID,but "they kept telling me, 'Your card is fake. You're going tojail.'"
Retailer Barneys New York publicly apologized this week, andMacy's Inc said late on Friday it was investigating Brown'sallegations.
Police officials have said that grand larceny - whichincludes shoplifting and credit card fraud - are top prioritiesin Midtown Manhattan's busy retail districts. An NYPD spokesmanwas not immediately available to comment on Saturday.
Grand larceny accounts for more than 75 percent of all crimein the precincts that cover the two retailers, according to NewYork Police Department crime statistics.
Brooklyn nursing student Kayla Phillips, 21, said this weekshe was surrounded by four undercover police officers inFebruary after leaving Barneys with a $2,500 Celine handbag shehad purchased. She plans to sue, said her lawyer, Kareem Vessup.
Trayon Christian, 19, said he was detained for two hours andquestioned by New York police in April after buying a $349Ferragamo belt at Barneys.
Christian filed a lawsuit against the store and the NYPDthis week, court records show. Brown filed a similar lawsuitagainst Macy's on Friday, according to the Daily News.
Neither Brown nor his attorney returned calls for comment onSaturday.
'WHY AM I BEING DEMONIZED?'
Barneys posted an apology on its Facebook page late onThursday and said it was hiring civil rights attorney MichaelYaki of San Francisco, a member of the U.S. Commission on CivilRights, to review the store's practices and procedures.
At a weekly gathering of his National Action Networkheadquarters on Saturday, Sharpton said racially profilingshoppers was intolerable.
"We are not going to live in a town where our money isconsidered suspect and everybody else's money is respected," hesaid.
Jay Z has a forthcoming collection of holiday items to beoffered at Barneys, including a watch designed by Swiss firmHublot that according to media reports would sell for $33,900.
A petition at the website Change.org has gathered over13,000 signatures from people calling on him to end hispartnership with Barneys because of the profiling scandal.
Jay Z said in a statement posted on his website on Saturday he was "not making a dime" from the collection and that instead25 percent of all sales would go to his charitable foundation tohelp fund the education of disadvantaged students.
"Why am I being demonized, denounced and thrown on the coverof a newspaper for not speaking immediately?" he said.
He added that "making a decision prematurely to pull out ofthis project" would not hurt Barneys or himself but "all thepeople that stand a chance at higher education."
In 2005, Macy's paid $600,000 to settle similar allegationsthat many of the chain's New York stores had targeted blacks andLatinos for particular scrutiny of theft, according to the NewYork Attorney General's office.
Grand larceny has risen 31.6 percent over the past two yearsin the NYPD's Midtown North precinct, which includes Macy'sflagship store in Herald Square. It is up nearly 4 percent inthe Upper East Side's 19th precinct, which includes Barneys NewYork.
- Company Legal & Law Matters
- Crime & Justice
- New York
- Reverend Al Sharpton
- National Action Network