(NEW YORK) — Two New York department stores are defending themselves against allegations of racial discrimination from shoppers, who say they were wrongly accused of shoplifting because of their race.
Both Macy’s and Barneys are facing lawsuits from customers, who say they were either arrested or detained shortly after legally purchasing an item at the stores.
The most recent accusation comes from Treme actor Robert Brown, 29, who filed a lawsuit against Macy’s that alleges he was “paraded” through the store in handcuffs after he purchased a $1,350 watch for his mom.
“I believe that I was profiled,” Brown, who is black, said during a press conference on Friday. Brown’s lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages, although his lawyer John Elefterakis said, “This is about justice, not money.”
According to court documents, Brown alleges that three undercover police officers or detectives detained him after he made a high-price purchase on a credit card. Although he said he showed them his I.D. to prove that the credit card was his, they initially accused him of fraud before he was “paraded while handcuffed” through the store.
On Sunday, Macy’s released a statement claiming that the store’s “personnel were not involved” in the incident and that the store had provided a small room to police officers at their request.
“Our company will continue to investigate all aspects of our alleged involvement in this incident, and to cooperate fully with the courts and the New York City Police Department, with which we have a close and important working relationship,” the company said in the statement. “If Macy’s policies are found to have been violated, we will take swift and decisive action.”
The New York Police Department is accused in the lawsuit of violating Brown’s constitutional rights.
According to Brown’s lawsuit, he was detained while handcuffed for over an hour and no charges were brought against him.
Brown said he came forward after hearing similar allegations made from customers of Barneys New York.
Earlier last week, Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips said they were detained by police after making expensive purchases at Barneys New York. Both Christian and Phillips are black.
After their accusations went public, Barneys CEO Mark Lee said that the store would investigate the accusations and meet with community leaders including Rev. Al Sharpton to discuss the incidents.
“We want to reinforce that Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination,” Lee said in the statement. “We are a strong proponent of equal rights and equal treatment for all human beings.”
The store said that civil rights expert, Michael Yaki, who also serves on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, would be reviewing store policies.
In addition to the store itself, rapper Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, came under fire since he was planning a clothing partnership with the store to raise money for his foundation. Carter took to his website defending the partnership after a Change.org petition called for Carter to cut ties with the department store.
In a statement, Carter wrote that he would wait to hear more about the incidents before taking any steps. He said he was “no stranger to being profiled” and empathized with those that had been.
“Hopefully this brings forth a dialogue to effect real change,” Carter said in the statement.
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