New Yorkers target Barneys after black shoppers claim bias

Wed Oct 30, 2013 5:42pm EDT
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By Chris Francescani and Curtis Skinner

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A small group of demonstrators gathered at the Manhattan storefront of Barneys New York Inc on Wednesday to express outrage over black customers' complaints they were stopped by police after making luxury purchases.

The protest, organized by Brooklyn pastor the Rev. Clinton Miller, coincided with an investigation by the state attorney general into security practices at Barneys and fellow retailer Macy's Inc.

Four black shoppers have said they were detained in separate incidents at the two stores and later released without charges, touching off the latest racial controversy in a largely integrated city that nonetheless experiences frequent debates about prejudice and equality.

Fewer than two dozen demonstrators, some carrying signs, converged on the upscale department store in the early minutes of the protest.

"We are here today to say that Barneys is wrong because there is no one in the city of New York who is qualified to analyze a person's dress or manner to determine how much money they have and how capable they are to purchase something," said Conrad Tillard, senior pastor at the Nazarene Congregational United Church of Christ.

Miller told the gathering that demonstrators stood in solidarity with the shoppers. A transit authority bus driver shouted: "Right on, all day long!" as he pumped a clenched fist in the open window of his moving bus.

"The disrespect that racial profiling does to us as a people will not be tolerated," said the Rev. Evelyn Manns, a pastor at Brooklyn Christian Center.

The two retailers and the New York Police Department traded blame on Tuesday over the incidents dubbed "shop-and-frisk" by tabloids after the controversial "stop and frisk" policing tactic aspects of which have been ruled unconstitutional for violating the rights of minorities.   Continued...

Barneys New York Chief Executive Mark Lee speaks to the media next to Reverend Al Sharpton (2nd R) during a news conference in New York October 29, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz