The anger over the alleged racial profiling practiced by New York department stores Barneys and Macy’s—unearthed in recent lawsuits—bubbled onto the streets yesterday, as protesters shouting “no shop and frisk” picketed in front of Barneys in Manhattan.
Holding signs urging shoppers to “Boycott Barneys,” the protesters were hoping to deliver a letter to Barneys Chief Executive Officer Mark Lee, who did not meet them. Protesters said they would give Lee two days to respond.
“The disrespect that racial profiling does to us as a people will not be tolerated,” Evelyn Manns, a pastor at Brooklyn Christian Center, told the demonstrators, who numbered less than two dozen according to media reports.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman gave the two department store chains until Friday to turn over information about their policies for detaining and questioning customers based on race.
But in their defense, both department stores shifting the blame to the New York Police Department.
“This was an operation of the New York City Police Department,” Macy’s spokeswoman Elina Kazan said in a statement, adding that store “personnel were not involved” in the incident.
In addition, Barneys Chief Executive Mark Lee likewise said his employees had no part in the two incidents involving Black customers.
“We believe that no Barneys employees were involved in those incidents,” Lee said after a meeting in Harlem with civil rights leader Al Sharpton and members of his National Action Network. “No one from Barneys brought them to the attention of our internal security, and no one from Barneys reached out to external authorities.”
NYPD chief spokesman John McCarthy countered those claims, saying that in both Barneys’ incidents and the Macy’s case, officers were acting on information provided by store security.
“In both instances, the NYPD were conducting unrelated investigations” in the store, Reuters quotes McCarthy as saying.
A fourth shopper in New York stepped forward Sunday claiming that he was racially profiled after he made an expensive purchase at Macy’s Herald Square, which has also been accused of racial profiling by actor Robert Brown.
Art Palmer, a 56-year-old exercise trainer from Brooklyn, came forward saying that he had been surrounded by police officers after he made an expensive purchase at Macy’s flagship store.
Palmer says the incident happened in April when he purchased $320 worth of Polo dress shirts and ties.
He said he was surrounded by NYPD police officers in plain clothes about three blocks away from Macy’s where he had made the purchase without problem.
“Treme” actor Brown made the same accusations against the same Macy’s, and two other shoppers accused Barneys New York of racial profiling as well.
A 19-year-old shopper, Trayon Christian, is suing Barneys after he was detained by police officers when he purchased a $349 Salvatore Ferragamo belt back in April.
Another Barneys shopper also stepped forward, 21-year-old Kayla Phillips, who says she was accused of credit card fraud in February when she purchased a $2,500 designer bag.
Schneiderman’s office yesterday released letters sent to Lee and Macy’s Chief Stores Officer Peter Sachse, notifying them that it is investigating a total of four complaints from Black shoppers.
“The alleged repeated behavior of your employees raises troubling questions about your company’s commitment to that ideal,” wrote Kristen Clarke, who heads the attorney general’s civil rights bureau, in the letters to Lee and Sachse.
In a deposition taken in June by former Macy’s security guard Brenda Howard, she said security staff at the department store are expected to make five shoplifting arrests a week.