Racially profiled while apple picking? Farm calls police on Massachusetts family
(Yahoo News) - A Massachusetts family of four was enjoying a Labor Day trip to a local apple farm, but an alleged racial profiling incident to end their day became a “traumatic experience.”
Six extra apples that fell into a stroller pushed by Rev. Manikka Bowman and Jeff Myers led to police being called at Connors Farm and racial comments directed to the Black family.
Bowman and Myers brought their two children Monday to Connors Farm in Danvers, where they spent more than $100 for a day of apple picking, they wrote in a news release. The family picked up a few more apples than would fit in their designated bag, leading to an issue as they went to purchase apple cider donuts.
Bowman said a security officer stopped them for having too many apples — six too many. Some of the fruit had fallen to the bottom of the stroller for the couple’s 18-month-old child, but they had intentions of paying for it at the final checkout.
The situation intensified when they were ushered in to a farm store building by security officers and a manager, who searched “for more ‘concealed’ fruit.”
“Of course, there wasn’t any!” the family said. “I asked the person why were we being treated this way? And did they treat other guests this way?”
Police were eventually called when the couple asked to speak with the farm’s owner. The responding officer, according to Bowman and Myers, accused the couple of “playing the race card.”
“Why was this happening? We looked at each other, wondering. What made them suspect us of stealing?” the parents said. “Had our skin color influenced their thinking? Were we presumed guilty because we are an African American family? Why hadn’t they taken a much simpler, customer-friendly route and presumed our innocence with a simple reminder on what to do with any fruit that did not fit in the bag?”
When the manager said the family was trying to steal the fruit, the couple’s 7-year-old daughter burst into tears. Farm workers harassed the couple and created a scene due to the extra apples, which would have cost about $4, the family said.
Bowman, the vice-chair of the Cambridge School Committee, and Myers, a commercial real estate director, were forced to pay for an extra bag, despite the six apples not reaching its capacity.
Connors Farm wrote Thursday in a Facebook post that was later deleted that it has the right “to inspect all backpacks, bags and strollers that exit our orchard,” the Boston Herald reported.
A second post on Thursday remained on the farm’s page Friday, flooded with thousands of comments. Connors Farm said in the post it regrets the incident and has apologized to the family.
“We do our best to train our employees to handle all customer issues with courtesy and respect at all times,” the farm wrote. “We are taking further steps to ensure that staff will undergo diversity, equity and inclusion training. Please know that everybody is welcome on our farm.”
Town officials in Danvers also extended apologies to the family and said “discriminatory behavior has no place” in its community.
Leaders in the town, which has a population of about 27,000, have reached out to the family as well as the business, to which it “expressed its disappointment.” They also said the police officer who questioned the family made a “racially insensitive comment” to the couple.
In a second statement Friday, Bowman and Myers said the farm has apologized to them and have agreed to undergo racial equity workshops.
“We also acknowledge that the Connors Farm statement came after it made social media posts that were not sensitive to the seriousness of the moment,” the family said. “Clearly, Connors Farm has work to do to live into their words, and we hope that the owner’s stated intentions will be a meaningful step forward.”