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Lawsuit charges Upper West Side Apple Store with racism

updated 01:45 pm EDT, Wed May 25, 2011

Incident recorded on cellphones

Workers at Apple's Upper West Side store in New York City recently engaged in racial discrimination, a new lawsuit complains. The plaintiffs, Brian Johnston and Nile Charles, say that on December 9th, they went into to the store to buy headphones. Both Johnston and Charles are black, and are described as having worn "baggy jeans and large sweaters with hoods" when they entered the store at 3:20 in the afternoon.

They were then met by an Apple worker said to be white and in his 50s, measuring an estimated 6'2" and 225 pounds. The person allegedly approached them in an "intimidating fashion," violating their personal space. "You know the deal. You know the deal," the man is quoted as saying. He is then claimed to have told Johnston and Charles that they should leave, unless they planned to buy something or see a Mac Specialist; before they could respond, the worker interrupted, telling them they weren't welcome at all.

"And before you say I'm racially discriminating against you, let me stop you. I am discriminating against you," the man is accused of saying. "I don't want 'your kind' hanging out in the store."

Court documents note that Johnston and Charles recorded the incident on their cellphones. The two say they were "shocked and humiliated," and that the situation only worsened when another Apple Store worker came by. "Now you have to go," the second employee said. "If you want to know why, it's because I said so. CONSIDER ME GOD. You have to go."

Johnston and Charles asked to speak to a manager, but were reportedly ignored by the store's head of security, and so found a manager on their own. The manager subsequently asked the security chief to call 911.

Apple is accused of violating both federal and state civil rights laws. As compensation, the plaintiffs are asking for punitive damages. The case was originally filed through the New York Supreme Court, but was just this month moved to the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Damages were originally claimed to surpass the jurisdictional amounts of lower courts.

by MacNN Staff





  1. ZinkDifferent

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Yeah, because I frequently walk into a store with my cellphone recording every visit.

    Sounds a lot like there's some backstory that the plaintiffs aren't forthcoming about, and that will be painfully revealed if this goes to court.

    I bet this wasn't their first visit to that Apple Store.

  1. DiabloConQueso

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The deal?

    "You know the deal. You know the deal,"

    Were these two asked to leave at some point previously? Were they told never to enter the store again?

    Of course, this is journalism at its best -- give me just enough "facts" to start my mind a-wanderin'. From the limited information given, it seems like these two individuals had previous encounters at that store, and employees recognized them -- not as two black individuals, but as two individuals they didn't want inside the store... white, black, purple, orange or fuchsia (my wife helped me with that one).

    I'm interested to see how this plays out -- is the Upper West Side Apple Store practicing racism, or were these guys known for bringing trouble?

  1. sammaffei

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I've seen it in Philly

    On Walnut Street (in Philadelphia), the Apple Store on Friday night has 3 cops in front of it. And, when someone didn't look like Apple's clientele. They would stop them, ask them if they had an appointment. If they did not, the cops would claim the store was about exceed the fire code for occupancy and not let them in.

    I don't think it's racism as opposed to weeding out thug types. But, hey, that's still profiling and discriminatory.

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    who knows

    what the real story is. For me the real story is the additional security at Apple Stores because they are targets for theft.

  1. prl99

    Joined: Dec 1969


    just being safe

    I noticed a new sign in my local pharmacy the other day. It read something like please remove all hooded jackets/sweatshirts for the protection of the employees. This pharmacy has been robbed several times in the last year in a community that has a very low crime rate. I don't care if someone thinks it's profiling, I care more about what might happen, and has happened, to the employees.

  1. c4rlob

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Apple changed all their iMacs and MacMinis to aluminum with black logos; and Apple took forever to release the white iPhone4; that's all the proof I need they couldn't have racism.

  1. guzzi

    Joined: Dec 1969


    cash is cash

    Doesn't mater what color you are......GREEN is all that matters and it looks like these guys ( Well their Lawyers ) are looking for as much as possible. Like someone stated why would you be recording with your cell phone.....God Bless America.

  1. ClevelandAdv

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Throw them out of court

    Like they were thrown out of the store. Certainly this sounds like a setup to extort money from Apple.

    American the big bad racist country which has more minority immigrants than any other nation, none of whom are leaving due to racism.

  1. joecab

    Joined: Dec 1969


    know what I wanna do?

    I wanna find this CONSIDER ME GOD guy and ask him what the heck happened Saturday

  1. Bobfozz

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The Setup is Obvious

    Before I read the following paragraphs I too had wondered why anyone would start recording anything unless they had a previous "bad relationship." Apple's lawyers will take them apart. What's sad is that too often corps. "settle" because the legal fees will be large, even if they are the innocent party. The lawyers (for the "hoody" types) are just as bad. I hope they will get a black judge, most likely he will have them eat their own shorts. Another awful thing? When "false" things like this happen, there should be punishment for those who do this kind of thing. In my wildest mindful imaginations can you imagine an Apple employee act this way without provocation? I thought so.

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