Protesters head for Barneys after black shoppers claim discrimination

NEW YORK Wed Oct 30, 2013 11:04am EDT

NEW YORK Oct 30 (Reuters) - Picketers headed for the Manhattan storefront of Barneys New York Inc on Wednesday to express outrage over black customers' complaints that they were stopped by police after making luxury purchases.

Brooklyn pastor Reverend Clinton Miller said he would lead the late afternoon picket line that comes as the state attorney general is investigating security practices at Barneys and fellow retailer Macy's Inc.

Four black shoppers have said they were stopped and detained in separate incidents at the two stores and later released without charges.

The two retailers and the New York Police Department traded blame on Tuesday over the "shop and frisk" incidents, nicknamed by tabloids after the controversial "stop and frisk" policing tactic that has been ruled unconstitutional for targeting blacks and Hispanics.

Barneys and Macy's officials said police had acted on their own, without input from store staff, in choosing to stop shoppers who included Rob Brown, a black actor with a role on the HBO series "Treme."

On Tuesday, New York civil rights leader Al Sharpton met with Barneys Chief Executive Officer Mark Lee, who said his employees had no part in two incidents at his stores.

"No one from Barneys brought them to the attention of our internal security," Lee said, "and no one from Barneys reached out to external authorities."

Likewise, a Macy's spokeswoman denied that any staff member had a role in two incidents there.

Brown said he was handcuffed in June after purchasing a $1,350 gold Movado watch for his mother, the Daily News reported. In the other incident, Art Palmer, 56, an exercise trainer, said he was surrounded by police in April after he used his 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 involving Brown at Macy's, officers were acting on information provided by store security. The Palmer case is still under investigation, McCarthy said.

Barneys and the NYPD were named in a lawsuit filed last week by Trayon Christian, a 19-year-old Queens student. The lawsuit said police had detained him in April for two hours after he bought a $349 Ferragamo belt.

New York's Civilian Complaint Review Board is investigating allegations of improper police stops of Palmer and Brooklyn nursing school student Kayla Phillips, 21, who said she was surrounded by four undercover police officers in February after leaving Barneys with a $2,500 Celine handbag she had bought.

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