(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)
Barneys New York has been the center of controversy this week as two black shoppers claim that they were racially profiled after making purchases at the high-end store. Plus, Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network (NAN) has threatened to lead a picket against the ritzy department store if the alleged pattern of racial discrimination persists.
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Trayon Christian, a college student from Queens, N.Y., has slapped Barneys New York and the New York Police Department with a lawsuit that claims that he was arrested after making a legitimate purchase from the store simply because he is young and black.
According to the suit, which was filed Tuesday, the 19-year-old bought a $350 Salvatore Ferragamo belt back using his Chase debit card in April. Although he complied when the sales clerk asked him to show ID, she called the police after the transaction was over because she believed it was fraudulent. When Christian walked out the store, he was stopped by undercover officers who allegedly asked him "how a young black man such as himself could afford to purchase such an expensive belt?" He was then handcuffed and taken to a local precinct where he says he was held in a cell for two hours, reports the New York Daily News.
Despite showing the officers the receipt for the belt, his ID and the debit card used, "Christian was told that his identification was false and that he could not afford to make such an expensive purchase," said his lawyer to the New York Post.
Christian, who saved up money for the pricey accessory from his part-time job at college, said he returned the belt and never plans to shop at the Madison Avenue store again.
Meanwhile, another shopper who heard about the lawsuit came forward Wednesday to say she had a similar experience after purchasing a $2,500 Celine handbag at the store in February.
Kayla Phillips, 21, of Brooklyn, told the New York Daily News that she was surrounded by police after leaving the store who demanded to know why she used a debit card without a name on it. 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.
Phillips has filed a $5 million notice of claim with the city informing them of her intention to sue the NYPD, reports the Huffington Post.
The Brooklyn chapter of NAN has requested to meet with the CEO of Barneys New York in the wake of racial profiling claims. The group's president, Kirsten John Foy, also said in a statement that they will picket Barneys if profiling does not stop, according to The Guardian.
In response to Christian's claim, a spokesperson at Barneys New York released the following statement via Facebook:
"Barneys New York typically does not comment on pending litigation. In this instance, we feel compelled to note 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. Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and we stand by our long history in support of all human rights."