New Yorkers target Barneys after black shoppers claim bias

Reuters

By Chris Francescani and Curtis Skinner

NEW YORK, Oct 30 (Reuters) - A small group of demonstratorsgathered at the Manhattan storefront of Barneys New York Inc on Wednesday to express outrage over blackcustomers' complaints they were stopped by police after makingluxury purchases.

The protest, organized by Brooklyn pastor the Rev. ClintonMiller, coincided with an investigation by the state attorneygeneral into security practices at Barneys and fellow retailerMacy's Inc.

Four black shoppers have said they were detained in separateincidents at the two stores and later released without charges,touching off the latest racial controversy in a largelyintegrated city that nonetheless experiences frequent debatesabout prejudice and equality.

Fewer than two dozen demonstrators, some carrying signs,converged on the upscale department store in the early minutesof the protest.

"We are here today to say that Barneys is wrong becausethere is no one in the city of New York who is qualified toanalyze a person's dress or manner to determine how much moneythey have and how capable they are to purchase something," saidConrad Tillard, senior pastor at the Nazarene CongregationalUnited Church of Christ.

Miller told the gathering that demonstrators stood insolidarity with the shoppers. A transit authority bus drivershouted: "Right on, all day long!" as he pumped a clenched fistin the open window of his moving bus.

"The disrespect that racial profiling does to us as a peoplewill not be tolerated," said the Rev. Evelyn Manns, a pastor atBrooklyn Christian Center.

The two retailers and the New York Police Department tradedblame on Tuesday over the incidents dubbed "shop-and-frisk" bytabloids after the controversial "stop and frisk" policingtactic aspects of which have been ruled unconstitutional forviolating the rights of minorities.

Barneys and Macy's officials said police had acted on theirown, without input from store staff, in choosing to stopshoppers who included Rob Brown, an actor in the HBO series"Treme."

In a deposition of former Macy's security guard BrendaHoward taken in June in connection with a lawsuit, the formerguard said that security staffers at the department store areexpected to make five shoplifting arrests a week.

That deposition was taken in connection with a lawsuit filedby a shopper who contends she was wrongly accused of shopliftingand detained by store security in 2010.

A Macy's spokeswoman did not immediately respond to arequest for comment on the lawsuit.

On Tuesday, New York civil rights leader Al Sharpton metwith Barneys Chief Executive Officer Mark Lee, who said hisemployees had no part in two incidents at his stores.

"No one from Barneys brought them to the attention of ourinternal security," Lee said, "and no one from Barneys reachedout to external authorities."

Likewise, a Macy's spokeswoman denied that any staff memberhad a role in two incidents there.

Brown said he was handcuffed in June after purchasing a$1,350 gold Movado watch for his mother, the Daily Newsreported. In the other incident, Art Palmer, 56, an exercisetrainer, said he was surrounded by police in April after usinghis credit card to buy $320 worth of shirts and ties.

NYPD chief spokesman John McCarthy countered those claims,saying that in both incidents at Barneys and the case involvingBrown at Macy's, officers were acting on information provided bystore security. The Palmer case is still under investigation,McCarthy said.

Barneys and the NYPD were named in a lawsuit filed last weekby Trayon Christian, a 19-year-old Queens student. The lawsuitsaid police had detained him in April for two hours after hebought a $349 Ferragamo belt.

New York's Civilian Complaint Review Board is investigatingallegations of improper police stops of Palmer and Brooklynnursing school student Kayla Phillips, 21, who said she wassurrounded by four undercover police officers in February whenshe left Barneys after purchasing a $2,500 Celine handbag.

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.

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