New York protesters target Barneys after black shoppers claim bias

Reuters

By Chris Francescani and Curtis Skinner

NEW YORK, Oct 30 (Reuters) - A small group of demonstratorsshouting "no shop and frisk" gathered at the Manhattanstorefront of Barneys New York Inc on Wednesday toexpress outrage over black customers' complaints they werestopped by police after making luxury purchases.

The protest, organized by Brooklyn pastor Clinton Miller,coincided with an investigation by the state attorney generalinto security practices at Barneys and fellow retailer Macy'sInc.

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. They wanted todeliver a letter Barneys Chief Executive Officer Mark Lee, whodid not meet them. Protesters said they would give Lee two daysto respond.

"The disrespect that racial profiling does to us as a peoplewill not be tolerated," Evelyn Manns, a pastor at BrooklynChristian Center, told the demonstration.

Conrad Tillard, senior pastor at the Nazarene CongregationalUnited Church of Christ, told the gathering that demonstratorsstood in solidarity with the shoppers. A transit authority busdriver shouted: "Right on, all day long!" as he pumped aclenched fist in the open window of his moving bus.

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."

"We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind within ourorganization," Macy's said in a statement on Wednesday.

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 said the company would not comment onpending litigation.

On Tuesday, New York civil rights leader Al Sharpton metwith Barneys CEO Lee, who said his employees had no part in twoincidents 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 any staff member had arole 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.

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