SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Two San Francisco youth program leaders are outraged after they claim they were racially profiled while shopping Sunday evening at a popular fashion retailer near Union Square.
Richard Bougere, also known as “Big Rich,” recorded a video explaining his frustration just moments after he says he, his wife and a group of young people they mentor were accused of shoplifting.
“We got too much money, too much influence, too much power to have us steal from anywhere,” said Bougere in a video posted to Instagram.
Bougere said he and his wife Danielle Banks have spent thousands of dollars at Forever 21 on Stockton Street and shop there almost weekly. They were surprised at the way they were treated.
Bougere is the Executive Director of Project Level, a San Francisco youth program that teaches students music, film, fashion, dance and entrepreneurship. This summer, they’re employing 75 interns through Mayor London Breed’s Opportunities For All initiative.
Bourgere and Banks had taken a group of interns to Forever 21 over the weekend to buy clothes for a big photo shoot project.
“I always shop here, but to accuse the youth program of stealing? Really?” said Banks in a video posted to Instagram.
The two said they were first approached by two SFPD officers, who said the store called them after seeing Danielle put items into a white grocery bag on camera. But the officers searched the bag and found nothing.
“It was kind of embarrassing, because we had these six young kids that probably get profiled everywhere they go,” said Bougere. “They all got summer jobs through Opportunities For All. They all got a pocketful of money, we didn’t have to steal.”
When they didn’t get an apology from the store manager, they shared their experience on social media.
“It’s a slap in the face,” said Banks, who works as Director of Programming at Project Level. “We have to order things online, because right now I personally just don’t want to go shopping.”
Some of the young women were in the dressing room trying on clothes when officers showed up.
“I don’t have to steal and I never stole,” said Project Level intern Mikayla Sherman. “Then we were getting escorted out with the police. It was so embarrassing, ’cause then it looked like we did do something, and we didn’t.”
The group didn’t buy anything that day after their experience. They say what they really want is an apology from Forever 21.
KPIX 5 reached out to the brand, but have not yet heard back as of late Monday night.
Update on 7/11/19: Forever 21 sent KPIX 5 the following statement:
“At Forever 21, we are committed to diversity and inclusion in our stores and always strive to maintain a safe and welcoming shopping environment for our customers. After conducting an investigation into the situation, we confirmed that the police were notified due to specific shopping behaviors, consisting of bringing in non-Forever 21 products and mixing and matching with in-store merchandise, which created confusion. We sincerely apologize for the misunderstanding and are working with the Mayor’s Office and the parties involved to learn from this experience, and make it right, as we take this matter extremely seriously.”