Another day, another activity added to the list of things black people can’t do while being black.
A black lawyer and her daughter were accused of shoplifting from a vintage store in New York City’s heavily gentrified Williamsburg neighborhood in the borough of Brooklyn. The duo were not only accused of stealing but also handcuffed and searched by police, who would later let them go after realizing that they hadn’t done anything wrong ... well, except for being black in a gentrified neighborhood and shopping at a gentrified thrift shop.
According to the New York Daily News, it all went down last weekend when Nancy Bedard, an attorney with Brooklyn Legal Services, and her 19-year-old daughter trekked into Amacord Vintage Fashion that Friday looking for some ’70s fashion finds.
Bedard grabbed a bathing suit and three dresses—a black one with long sleeves, a lavender frock and a purple dress—and asked to try on the four items. She tried them on, asked about the price of one of the dresses, then laid them on an ottoman and went to leave the store. That is when, Bedard claims, a clerk began asking her about a fifth item.
“I remember counting on my fingers. One, two, three, four. There is no missing item,” the lawyer told the Daily News. Bedard tried to leave the store when the clerk reportedly followed her and her daughter outside.
“She told me to come back in the store and I wouldn’t,” she said. “I know my rights and I didn’t.”
The clerk warned both women that the store had surveillance cameras that would have captured any theft.
“Great,” Bedard said she told the clerk. “You should go watch it.”
Bedard claims that the woman then followed her and her daughter, who was home from college, and called the cops. Bedard also claims that the woman berated her and her daughter while waiting for the police to arrive.
“It was very embarrassing,” Bedard told the Daily News. “People were staring at me, not her, but she was the one that was screaming.”
The police showed up, handcuffed Bedard and her daughter, and searched their belongings but found nothing from the vintage store. They were then uncuffed.
“My daughter and I were hysterically crying,” Bedard told the Daily News. “My daughter, my baby, I was so upset that she had to go through this to her physical self.”
The two were taken to a local hospital, where, they say, police continued to shadow them. Bedard told the Daily News that police didn’t give her driver’s license back until 11 that night.
The owners of Amarcord, Patti Bordoni and Marco Liotta, claim that the event went down differently but that their employees did nothing wrong.
“Basically, there was some furtive behavior on the part of the patrons, an employee asked about an item of clothing, and that question alone prompted the patron to pull the race card,” Daniel Kron, the attorney for the store owners, told the Daily News.
Ummm ... what race card? Probably not the best tactic for a lawyer who’s trying to prove that a gentrified-rags store didn’t pull some race-related stereotyping, but we will continue.
“At no time was the word ‘shoplifting’ used except by the patron,” he said.
According to Kron, Bedard said, “’Cause I’m black, you think I’m stealing?”
The lawyer said that Bedard started raising her voice. “She was causing a scene,” he said. “The police were called when she was in the store when we didn’t know if she would leave,” the Daily News reports.
Kron claims that his clients did nothing wrong—or, as he puts it, nothing that was “racially motivated”—and that the question about the phantom garment was a “normal question for any retail business.”
Around 60 people showed up to protest outside the store, which shut down for a few days because of the negative press.
Bedard told the Daily News that the incident inside the store was just another example of blackness being criminalized, and another event added to the list of things black people can’t do.
“It’s while we’re shopping, drinking coffee, sleeping, selling cigarettes,” she said. “The fact that you’re black alone is suspicious.”