NEW YORK -- NEW YORK (AP) — Civil rights activist Al Sharpton met with the CEO of Barneys New York on Tuesday to discuss allegations of racial profiling at the high-end retailer, while the New York state attorney general's office demanded its own meeting with Barneys and also Macy's.
Two black customers accused Barneys of discrimination last week after they said they had lawfully purchased items but were detained by police on suspicion of credit card fraud.
"We had a very candid and open meeting today to begin a dialogue," Sharpton said after the private meeting with Barneys CEO Mark Lee at Sharpton's National Action Network office in Harlem.
Lee said Barneys' own initial investigation showed no employees were at fault in the two incidents, but he said the retailer does not tolerate discrimination and wants "to be part of the solution" to racial profiling.
Macy's flagship Manhattan store also has been hit with a claim from a black actor that he was stopped because of his race while shopping. Macy's didn't comment on the litigation but said in a statement it was investigating.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office sent letters to the executives at both Barneys New York and Macy's East noting that racial discrimination in places of public accommodation including stores is prohibited under state and local civil rights law. The letters dated Monday asked executives at both stores to call the attorney general's office to schedule meetings.
Speaking Tuesday in Buffalo, Schneiderman said, "We're now demanding information from Barneys and Macy's to assess their policies and their conduct in this regard." He added, "Apparently there was some sort of policy in the stores and in some part of the NYPD to profile certain types of customers."
Lee said Barneys would "cooperate fully" with the attorney general. Macy's spokeswoman Elina Kazan said in a statement: "We have received the Attorney General's letter and are fully cooperating with the request."
One of the Barneys shoppers filed a discrimination lawsuit against Barneys, the city and its police department, while the other filed a complaint with the city's police watchdog agency.
"Our preliminary investigation has concluded that in both of these instances no one from Barneys New York raised any issue with these purchases," Lee said. "No one from Barneys brought them to the attention of our internal security, and no one from Barneys reached out to external authorities."
Lee deflected questions about whether he was suggesting that police acted on their own to detain the customers.
The police department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Lee's remarks.
Lee also alluded to Barneys' relationship with rap mogul Jay-Z, who has faced pressure to distance himself from the retailer since the profiling allegations surfaced.
"We deeply regret that these recent events have distracted from the great work of the Shawn Carter Foundation, and we offer our sincere apologies to Mr. Carter," Lee said, using the entertainer's real name.
An online petition and Twitter messages from fans have called on Jay-Z to bow out of his partnership with Barneys, which will have the store selling items by top designers, inspired by Jay-Z, with some of the proceeds going to his charity. Jay-Z said Saturday he was waiting to hear all the facts.
Also attending Tuesday's meeting were Hazel Dukes, president of the New York chapter of the NAACP, former Gov. David Paterson, other civil rights leaders, pastors and elected officials.
Associated Press writer Michael Virtanen contributed to this report from Albany, N.Y.
Also on HuffPost:
Oprah is racially profiled in a Swiss store
During an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Winfrey was asked if she had personally experienced racism. She responded with an anecdote about a clerk at a shop in Switzerland who had recently refused to show her an expensive bag, even though she repeated her request multiple times. "That one will cost too much, you won't be able to afford that," Winfrey claimed the clerk told her. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/14/oprah-swiss-racist-interview_n_3759144.html?utm_hp_ref=oprah" target="_blank">Read the full story, here.</a>
Paula Deen and the N-word
The 66-year-old chef a<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/25/paula-deen-smithfield-endorsement-over-company-drops-deen-in-wake-of-racist-remarks_n_3495314.html" target="_blank">nd Food Network star admitted in a </a>deposition in a discrimination lawsuit that she used racial slurs in the past. Deen was asked under oath if she had ever used the N-word. "Yes, of course," Deen said, though she added, "It's been a very long time."
Racist tweet from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Yes, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/23/atlanta-journal-constitution-racist-tweet_n_4150222.html?utm_hp_ref=black-voices&ir=Black%20Voices" target="_blank">racist tweets will get you in trouble.</a> AJC posted this, deleted it, and had to apologize.
Jordan Davis shooter rants about killing 'thugs'
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/18/jordan-davis-shooter-michael-dunn_n_4123805.html" target="_blank">Michael Dunn, the Florida man charged with shooting 17-year-old Jordan Davis after an argument over loud music, </a>is currently awaiting trial and maintaining that he acted in self-defense the night of the fatal confrontation. In several letters reportedly written from jail, and obtained by News4Jax, Dunn rants about killing "thugs" so "they take the hint and change their behavior," black-on-white crime and the liberal media.
Black college student claims he was arrested for buying designer belt
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/23/trayon-christian-lawsuit-barneys-new-york-nypd_n_4148490.html?utm_hp_ref=black-voices" target="_blank">Barneys New York and the New York Police Department have been slapped with a lawsuit by Trayon Christian</a>, a college student from Queens, who was arrested at the luxury department store in April. "His only crime was being a young black man,” Michael Palillo, Christian's attorney, told The New York Post. The Post reports that the 19-year-old was at the store buying a $350 Salvatore Ferragamo belt, but 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.
Young woman hosts "African" themed 21st birthday, posts racist photos
A young Australian woman<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/21/african-themed-21st-birthday_n_4138573.html?utm_hp_ref=tw" target="_blank"> hosted an "African" themed 21st birthday party</a>. Afterwards, she shared photos that show attendees In blackface and KKK costumes.
Black woman allegedly fired from "Hooters" due to her blonde highlights
A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/22/farryn-johnson-fired-hooters-blond-highlights-_n_4142108.html?utm_hp_ref=black-voices" target="_blank">black woman was allegedly fired from her job because of her blonde highlights.</a> Farryn Johnson told Maryland's CBS News affiliate that she was let go from her job as a waitress at Hooters due to '"improper image" after the 25-year-old refused to remove blonde highlights from her dark brown hair. "They specifically said, 'Black women don't have blonde in their hair, so you need to take it out,'" Johnson told CBS.
Ohio School Apologizes After Attempting To Ban 'Afro-Puffs' And 'Twisted Braids'
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/25/ohio-school-afro-puff-horizon-science-academy_n_3498954.html" target="_blank">An Ohio charter school attempted to ban </a>"afro-puffs and small twisted braids."
Obama as Hitler Billboard
WANE-TV<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/15/obama-hitler-billboard-indiana_n_4101322.html" target="_blank"> shared an image of the billboard, which is said to flash with the words "Impeach Obama."</a>
Another Black Shopper Accuses Barneys And NYPD Of Racism
Kayla Phillips, a 21-year-old nursing student from Brooklyn, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/24/barneys-racism-kayla-phillips_n_4155176.html" target="_blank">told the Daily News</a> that she was stopped by police after purchasing a $2,500 Céline bag at the store on February 28. After buying the luxury 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.
Company Policy Requires Missouri Woman To Cut Her Dreadlocks To Keep Her Job
Ashley Davis, a 24-year-old from St. Peters, Mo.,<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/24/new-company-policy-forces-woman-to-cut-dreadlocks_n_4159369.html?utm_hp_ref=black-voices" target="_blank"> said a change in her company's policy now requires her to cut off her dreadlocks. </a> “I've only been there for two months, and they came up with a policy. I feel like it's degrading,” she said.
Macy's Gets Slapped With Racial Discrimination Lawsuit By Black Shopper
The New York Post reports that actor Robert Brown, who's most known for his starring role opposite Sean Connery in the film “Finding Forrester," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/25/macys-racial-discrimination-lawsuit-black-shopper_n_4164823.html?utm_hp_ref=black-voices" target="_blank">has filled a civil suit for an unspecified sum against the luxury retail store and the New York Police Department</a>, citing that he was unlawfully searched by undercover police officers on June 8, 2013. The 29 year old, who is black, was stopped after making a purchase at the Sunglass Hut store located inside Macy's flagship location in New York's Herald Square
Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman Halloween Costumes
A group costume<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/28/trayvon-zimmerman-halloween-costume_n_4170528.html" target="_blank"> features a man dressed as Martin</a>, wearing blackface and a blood-stained hoodie, and a man portraying Zimmerman, wearing a shirt that reads "Neighborhood Watch." In a photo uploaded to the Facebook account of Caitlin Cimeno, the woman in the picture, the man portraying Zimmerman has fashioned a gun out of his right hand and has pointed it at the man dressed as Martin.
Is this sign racist?
An Arkansas town with a reportedly dark past rooted in racial discrimination is pushing back after an "anti-racist" billboard<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/07/harrison-arkansas-antiracist-code-word-antiwhite_n_4227769.html" target="_blank"> went up on a major roadway there last month.</a> Someone in Harrison, Ark., is paying $200 a month for an entire year to display this 12-by-24–foot sign with the message "Anti-Racist is a Code Word for Anti-White."