Fifth-grade boy says he was racially profiled at San Francisco Safeway store
SAN FRANCISCO - Students in San Francisco marched Wednesday in support of their fellow classmate, a fifth-grader, who was accused of stealing a sandwich from a Safeway store.
The child says he was singled out because of the color of his skin and that the ordeal was a traumatizing experience.
After class let out at the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, students, parents and community activists marched from the school to the Market Street store in solidarity with 11-year-old Ja'mari Oliver, who is Black.
Representatives from the Safeway store have since apologized to the boy.
Ja'mari said that on April 26, he paid for a sandwich but a security guard approached him and questioned him about his payment.
"I went to the sandwich deli to pay for my sandwich. Then I came back. Then the security guard told me to put my sandwich on the counter because I didn't pay for it," Oliver said.
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Safeway said Oliver was approached by a third-party security guard who asked to see a receipt and then allowed him to leave.
Ja'mari and his mother dispute that account.
"I just showed them the receipt and they kept on coming. The other security guard said that the person told them at the sandwich deli and said that I didn't pay for it," the boy said.
"When he walked out of the store he was crying, so of course I was very hysterical with the whole situation that was taking place," said the boy's mother, Tatiana Hawkins-Piggee. "He said that they were racist and they asked him to put his food down and that he paid for it and showed them his receipt and everything and they were still antagonizing him until the manager walked up to him and asked him to basically leave him alone."
The Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy teaches not just scholastic classes but education, rights and respect for all.
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"Everybody would want to be behind something like this; to see wrong and point it out. So we're just seeing wrong and now pointing it out. And these families, you see how they've organized themselves to do this," said Emmanuel Stewart, Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy Principal.
"It's important that we as a community and especially as a school stand up for our students, especially our Black and brown students and set an example that this is how we should be. Representing our kids," Rheanna Martinez said.
"It's definitely a blessing to know that it's not a situation that's being overlooked at all," Oliver said.
Safeway apparently made a gesture in an attempt to make things right.
Oliver said Safeway told her they would talk to the security guards and deal with the company. They also tried to offer Ja'mari a $25 gift card.
"So with that, you know I never really wanted to keep talking to them," Oliver said.