NEW YORK Oct 26 New York civil rights leaders
on Saturday decried the city's brewing "shop-and-frisk" scandal,
in which major retailers Barneys and Macy's are accused of
profiling black shoppers who say they were detained by police
after buying luxury items.
Also on Saturday, rap star Shawn "Jay Z" Carter defended his
partnership with Barneys after coming under pressure to cut ties
with the company.
"We've gone from stop-and-frisk to shop-and-frisk," said the
Reverend Al Sharpton, president of National Action Network,
alluding to a police crime-fighting tactic that critics say
amounts to racial profiling.
A representative of Sharpton's group is set to meet next
week with Mark Lee, the chief executive of Barneys New York,
following allegations from two black shoppers that they were
detained by New York police and accused of fraud after buying
luxury items at Barneys.
In a third such allegation this week, actor Rob Brown of
HBO's "Treme" told New York's Daily News on Friday he had been
"paraded" through a Midtown Manhattan Macy's in handcuffs in
June, and held for an hour, after purchasing a $1,350 gold
Movado watch for his mother.
Brown said he came forward after reading news accounts of
others who had similar experiences at Barneys.
He told the newspaper he "implored" police to check his ID,
but "they kept telling me, 'Your card is fake. You're going to
Retailer Barneys New York publicly apologized this week, and
Macy's Inc said late on Friday it was investigating Brown's
Police officials have said that grand larceny - which
includes shoplifting and credit card fraud - are top priorities
in Midtown Manhattan's busy retail districts. An NYPD spokesman
was not immediately available to comment on Saturday.
Grand larceny accounts for more than 75 percent of all crime
in the precincts that cover the two retailers, according to New
York Police Department crime statistics.
Brooklyn nursing student Kayla Phillips, 21, said this week
she was surrounded by four undercover police officers in
February after leaving Barneys with a $2,500 Celine handbag she
had purchased. She plans to sue, said her lawyer, Kareem Vessup.
Trayon Christian, 19, said he was detained for two hours and
questioned by New York police in April after buying a $349
Ferragamo belt at Barneys.
Christian filed a lawsuit against the store and the NYPD
this week, court records show. Brown filed a similar lawsuit
against Macy's on Friday, according to the Daily News.
Neither Brown nor his attorney returned calls for comment on
'WHY AM I BEING DEMONIZED?'
Barneys posted an apology on its Facebook page late on
Thursday and said it was hiring civil rights attorney Michael
Yaki of San Francisco, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil
Rights, to review the store's practices and procedures.
At a weekly gathering of his National Action Network
headquarters on Saturday, Sharpton said racially profiling
shoppers was intolerable.
"We are not going to live in a town where our money is
considered suspect and everybody else's money is respected," he
Jay Z has a forthcoming collection of holiday items to be
offered at Barneys, including a watch designed by Swiss firm
Hublot that according to media reports would sell for $33,900.
A petition at the website Change.org has gathered over
13,000 signatures from people calling on him to end his
partnership with Barneys because of the profiling scandal.
Jay Z said in a statement posted on his website on Saturday
he was "not making a dime" from the collection and that instead
25 percent of all sales would go to his charitable foundation to
help fund the education of disadvantaged students.
"Why am I being demonized, denounced and thrown on the cover
of a newspaper for not speaking immediately?" he said.
He added that "making a decision prematurely to pull out of
this project" would not hurt Barneys or himself but "all the
people that stand a chance at higher education."
In 2005, Macy's paid $600,000 to settle similar allegations
that many of the chain's New York stores had targeted blacks and
Latinos for particular scrutiny of theft, according to the New
York Attorney General's office.
Grand larceny has risen 31.6 percent over the past two years
in the NYPD's Midtown North precinct, which includes Macy's
flagship store in Herald Square. It is up nearly 4 percent in
the Upper East Side's 19th precinct, which includes Barneys New