A Black British activist is furious after he said he was harassed and falsely accused of stealing because of his skin color.
Cephas Williams said the incident took place on Sunday, June 27, at the Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent, a village in the Borough of Dartford in Kent, England. In the 37-minute clip posted to Williams’ YouTube page the following day, two hands — which are not Black — are seen grabbing Williams’ wrist and two suitcases.
The man repeatedly questions, “Why are you grabbing my arm?” when asked by one of the men if he had paid for the items as he was leaving the House of Fraser department store. He then asks Williams for proof of purchase, which the Black man said he had but was concerned as to why his arm was being grabbed and he was seemingly being pulled back toward the store.
“You can’t come at me like this. You can’t come at me like this and expect for me to show you a receipt,” Williams tells both men. “This is not how you speak to people. This is not how you speak to human beings. Why are you grabbing me up in the middle of Bluewater?”
One of the men, dressed in an black suit, later accused Williams of throwing a “tantrum,” to which he responded, “No, it’s behind my attention. Black people are going through this all the time.”
For the next several minutes, Williams repeatedly states, “let go of my arm!” All three men continue to argue over whether Williams had paid for both suitcases, which throughout the exchange, he maintains that he did. Eventually, two more security guards in yellow vests appear and attempt to calm Williams down.
Finally it is confirmed by the employee in black that the items were indeed paid for, and Williams demands that he admits his wrong on camera.
He later walked up to the store and requested to see the general manager of Bluewater and asked for the names of several of the employees involved in the incident. “George Floyd died last year because of this rubbish,” he repeatedly says as they try to get him to calm down.
Bluewater later released a statement stating:
“We would like to apologise for the experience Mr Williams had at Bluewater recently, and reassure him and all our guests that we are committed to ensuring that equality and diversity play a central role at Bluewater. We understand that House of Fraser is investigating the incident and we have reached out to Mr Williams to discuss his experience further so that we can identify any steps we can take to make sure this is an isolated incident which never happens again.”
Williams, who recently launched his Portrait of Black Britain campaign to highlight what it means to be Black in the country, is set to meet with the chief executive of the Kent shopping center. The pair plan to discuss measures that could be taken to prevent something like this from happening again.
In a statement to Kent Live, a spokesperson for Landsec, which owns Bluewater, said, “We have reviewed our role in this incident and discussions are underway across the business as to how we can do better, including the training we provide our staff and more widely share with our brand partners.”