A civil rights group said Oct. 24 it was seeking a meeting with the CEO of Barneys New York in the wake of racial profiling claims by two shoppers at the high-end department store.
The Brooklyn chapter of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN) said the group also plans to picket Barneys if the alleged pattern of racial profiling does not stop, NAN president, Kirsten John Foy, said in a statement.
Two Black shoppers this week accused Barneys of detaining them after they made expensive purchases at the store in Manhattan. One of them has filed a discrimination lawsuit against Barneys, the city and its police department; another filed a complaint with the city’s police watchdog agency.
“Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and we stand by our long history in support of all human rights,” the luxury retailer said in a statement.
Sharpton’s association said it plans other action against the New York Police Department for what it called “continued use of the discriminatory pattern and practice against people of color.”
Trayon Christian, 19, of Queens, filed a lawsuit Monday saying he was detained solely because he is a young Black man.
According to the lawsuit, Christian went to Barneys on April 29 and purchased a $350 Ferragamo belt. After leaving, he was accosted by undercover NYPD officers, who said someone at the store had raised concerns over the sale, he said. The lawsuit said he showed the receipt from the purchase, the debit card he used to make it and identification to the officers, but he was told the identification was false and “that he could not afford to make such an expensive purchase.”
The lawsuit said he was held in a precinct cell for more than two hours before being released with no charges filed. It said the incident was due to “discrimination based on plaintiff’s race and age as he was a young Black American male.”
The NYPD said Oct. 24 that it has gotten 53 grand larceny complaints this year for credit card fraud at the Madison Avenue store and made more than 47 arrests. It wasn’t clear how many were charged with crimes and how many were released.
In a statement, Barneys denied that it was involved in any detention, saying “that after carefully reviewing the incident of last April, it is clear that no employee of Barneys New York was involved in the pursuit of any action with the individual other than the sale.”
Meanwhile, a shopper who heard about the lawsuit came forward Oct. 23 to say she had a similar experience after purchasing a $2,500 Celine handbag in February.
Kayla Phillips, 21, of Brooklyn, told the New York Daily News and the New York Post that she was surrounded by police after leaving the store. They demanded to know why she used a debit card without a name on it, she said.
Phillips explained that it was a temporary card, and after showing police identification and a new debit card that had arrived in the mail that morning, they let her go.
She also intends to sue the police department.
The NYPD said any officers’ role is under internal review. The city’s law department said it was waiting for a formal copy of Christian’s lawsuit and would review the claim once it had been received.
The claims stirred outrage, including an online petition asking rapper Jay-Z, who is collaborating with the store for a holiday collection, to disassociate with the store. An e-mail to his representative seeking comment was not answered.