*Less than 24 hours after the news that Barneys and the New York Police Department are being sued for discrimination by 19-year-old college student Trayon Christian, a second African American shopper has come forward with the same allegations.
Kayla Phillips, a 21-year-old nursing student from Brooklyn, told the New York Daily News that she was stopped by police after purchasing a $2,500 Céline bag at the store on February 28. After buying the item with the money from a tax return, the woman left the Madison Avenue store. Three blocks away, she says she was surrounded by four undercover police officers — two white, one African American and one Asian — at a nearby subway station.
“There were three men and a woman. Two of them attacked me and pushed me against a wall, and the other two appeared in front of me, blocking the turnstile,” Phillips told the Daily News.
Phillips says the white officers, a male and female, questioned her for 20 minutes, inquiring where she lives, why she was in Manhattan and how she was able to purchase such an expensive bag. The mother of one, who is now expecting her second child, told them she was in the borough to shop, showed them her receipt and the card she used. Phillips’ debit card was a temporary replacement card, but after showing them her ID and the new, re-issued card she had received that morning in the mail and was carrying in her purse, the officers let her go.
Nevertheless, Phillips has filed a $5 million notice of claim with the city informing them of her intention to sue the NYPD. An additional civil rights lawsuit against the NYPD and Barneys is also pending according to Kareem Vessup, Phillips’ attorney.
While Barneys has tried to distance itself from the accusations with a statement claiming no involvement, these instances have ignited criticism around Jay Z’s partnership with the retail store.
The rapper is launching a collaboration called “A New York Holiday” on November 20 where he has curated a selection of limited-edition products by top fashion designers that range in price from $70 to $33,900. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds will go to the Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation to help fund education opportunities for students who can’t afford them.
“It’s not fair . . . the two individuals who have had these experiences listen to Jay Z and Beyoncé, who wear designer clothes,” Wendy Elie, the mother of Kayla Phillips, told Daily News. “These kids also like nice things, and they were treated awfully.”
As previously reported, Christian, a college student from Queens, was arrested at the luxury department store in April after buying a $350 Salvatore Ferragamo belt. Following the purchase, he was stopped by undercover officers that were allegedly called on by a Barneys sales clerk who believed the transaction was fraudulent.
“His only crime was being a young black man,” Michael Palillo, Christian’s attorney, told The New York Post.
Barneys has posted the below statement on their Facebook page, providing clarification about employee participation in the Trayon Christian incident.
“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.”
Christian’s lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, states that the NYC College of Technology freshman was asked by the cops: “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.
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,” Palillo said.
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. His story comes just days after another instance of racial discrimination was reported in Baltimore when a black woman was allegedly fired from Hooters for having blonde highlights.
Christian’s lawsuit against the store and the NYPD is for unspecified damages.