The town of Danvers, Massachusetts, issued an apology on Thursday, Sept. 9, after a Black couple was falsely accused of stealing apples from Connors Farm.
Rev. Manikka Bowman and her husband Jeff Myers went to the farm on Labor Day with their two children.
Although the outing involving apple picking and other activities was supposed to be a fun experience, the trip turned sour when the Cambridge, Massachusetts, couple was approached and questioned.
“We had just finished picking our apples,” Myers told The Salem News. “We wanted to go to the farm stand to buy some apple cider donuts. As we were walking, a gentleman appeared in front of us and said we had too many apples.”
The couple grew even more confused and alarmed when another worker appeared and brought them to the farm stand building. There, employees asked to look inside Bowman’s purse.
The couple believed some of the apples they’d had picked had fallen out of their bag and into the bottom of the stroller carrying their younger child, and they say they thought they’d pay for the apples and any other items they planned to buy before leaving. Staff said the couple had six apples that didn’t fit in the pre-paid bags for apple picking.
But Myers said “Conceal and steal were words they used a lot,” during the conversation with the employees.
The couple requested to speak with the manager, and a third employee said he was the manager.
“It’s my responsibility to prevent stealing,” the man said.
The manager refused to provide information on how to contact the owners of the farm, then alerted a police officer.
“By jumping straight to an assumption of theft, Connors Farm created a scene, harassing us and causing our 7-year-old to burst into tears, anguish that lasted well into the evening,” the couple wrote on a blog post. “We are left wondering, was it ever about the apples?”
The couple said the officer accused them of “playing the race card.”
In order to resolve the matter, the couple paid an extra $8.81 but upon returning home they realized most of the “extra” apples would have fit in the pre-paid bag.
“Why was this happening? We looked at each other, wondering. What made them suspect us of stealing? Had our skin color influenced their thinking?” the couple questioned on the blog. “Were we presumed guilty because we are an African American family? Why hadn’t they taken a much simpler, customer-friendly route and presumed our innocence with a simple reminder on what to do with any fruit that did not fit in the bag?”
The couple then wrote on a blog post demanding an apology from the farm owners and asking that the $100 they spent on admission, apple picking and other items be donated to the Essex County Community Foundation toward racial equity work, and commit, along with the Danvers Police Department, to training in diversity, equity and inclusion.
Since then, both the farm and the town have issued apologies.
Connors Farm wrote on Facebook, “We regret the incident that happened this past weekend. We have extended our personal apology to the family. We do our best to train our employees to handle all customer issues with courtesy and respect at all times. We are taking further steps to ensure that staff will undergo diversity, equity and inclusion training.”
The statement continued, “Please know that everybody is welcome on our farm.”
Danvers officials apologized for what happened, called the officer’s race card comment “racially insensitive,” and said they’d be meeting with the family.
“Let us be very clear, discriminatory behavior has no place in Danvers, or in any community,” the officials said. “In their letter, the family asked that the Town commit to diversity, equity, and inclusion training for its staff — a request we believe is entirely reasonable and appropriate.”