New York protesters target Barneys after black shoppers claim bias

Wed Oct 30, 2013 10:04pm EDT
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By Chris Francescani and Curtis Skinner

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A small group of demonstrators shouting "no shop and frisk" 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 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. They wanted to deliver a letter Barneys Chief Executive Officer Mark Lee, who did not meet them. Protesters said they would give Lee two days to respond.

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

Conrad Tillard, senior pastor at the Nazarene Congregational United Church of Christ, 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 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.

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, an actor in the HBO series "Treme."   Continued...

Demonstrators stand in front of a Barneys luxury department store of with signs decrying allegations that Barney's and Macy's stores have unfair security policies aimed at minorities in New York October 30, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson