Racial profiling claims at Barneys, Macy's: N.Y. attorney general probing (+video)
Four shoppers have come forward with allegations of racial profiling at Barneys and Macy's. Civil rights activist Al Sharpton was to meet with the Barneys New York CEO Tuesday morning.
Elizabeth Barber is a staff writer at The Christian Science Monitor. She holds a master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School and a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and English from SUNY Geneseo. Before coming to the Monitor, she was a freelance reporter at DNAinfo, a New York City breaking news site. She has also been an intern at The Cambodia Daily, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and at Washington D.C.’s The Middle East Journal.
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Mr. Sharpton, of the National Action Network, has threatened a boycott of Barneys, after two black shoppers came forward this week with allegations that in separate incidents police had detained them on suspicion of stealing their expensive purchases from the high-end retailer. His meeting with Barneys CEO Mark Lee was scheduled for Tuesday morning at the National Action Network’s headquarters in Harlem.
Meanwhile, the New York Attorney General’s Office on Monday sent letters to both Barneys and Macy’s in an official probe of racial profiling at the stores. The two retailers have until Friday to provide information on their policies for stopping customers based on race, the New York Daily News reported.
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"Attorney General [Eric] Schneiderman is committed to ensuring that all New York residents are afforded equal protection under the law," Kristen Clarke, head of the attorney general's Civil Rights Bureau, wrote to the two retailers' CEOs.
"The alleged repeated behavior of your employees raises troubling questions about your company's commitment to that ideal," the letters said.
The developments come amid an already-troubled relationship between the New York Police Department and the city’s minority communities and has put another spotlight on the city's pushback against persistent racism.
Reports of racial profiling first surfaced last week when Trayon Christian, 19, a Queens student, filed suit against both Barneys and the NYPD in Manhattan Supreme Court for an alleged incident on April 29. In that incident, plainclothes officers stopped him a block away from the Barneys flagship store on Madison Avenue, where he had just purchased a $349 Ferragamo belt with his debit card, he said. He was held at the 19th Precinct for two hours before he was released, with no charges filed against him, he said.
Also, Kayla Phillips, 21, a nursing student from Canarsie in Brooklyn, told the New York Daily News that four plainclothes officers surrounded her three blocks from the same Barneys store, after she had purchased a $2,500 orange suede Céline bag with a debit card in February. Ms. Phillips said she plans to sue the NYPD.