Kirkland police are conducting an internal investigation to determine whether officers followed “proper protocol” when they responded to the shop and told Byron Ragland the owner wanted him to leave
Civil-rights activists, upset after a black man was told by police to leave a Kirkland yogurt shop after employees said he made them feel uncomfortable, protested outside the store Tuesday and threatened to file a lawsuit.
The shop, Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, was closed Tuesday. A pagelong note on the front door indicated employees were undergoing training and included an apology for the handling of the incident, similar to one issued Monday by the Kirkland Police Department.
On Nov. 7, 31-year-old Byron Ragland, a court-appointed visitation supervisor, was overseeing a meeting between a mother and her son. Employees called the store owner, who called 911 to report him as a suspicious person. Kirkland police officers responded and told Ragland the manager wanted him to leave despite having no evidence Ragland was doing anything wrong.
On Tuesday, protesters including James Bible, a Bellevue-based civil-rights attorney, gathered outside the yogurt shop and said that apologies from the company and the police department weren’t enough. He added that it’s likely that the matter will be taken up in court, claiming state and federal discrimination laws were violated and that a lawsuit could compensate Ragland, who is a military veteran and a student at the University of Washington.
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The protest was organized by the NAACP of Seattle-King County.
“Thank goodness Mr. Ragland was actually a military veteran. Thank goodness he was actually a court-appointed advocate. Thank goodness he was, and is, a student of the University of Washington. Because if he was just a worker from across the street, he still would be perceived differently and the reality is it shouldn’t be that way,” Bible said.
Ragland’s experience is the latest in a string of high-profile incidents of alleged racial-bias cases involving African Americans, some of which have been captured on video and widely circulated on social media. Civil rights advocates say the incidents reflect social and economic injustice that black Americans still suffer from even decades after the civil-rights movement.
Earlier this year, Starbucks apologized to two black men who were arrested in one of its stores in Philadelphia after an employee called the police on them without reasonable justification.
“We are truly sorry about what occurred at our store on Nov. 7,” the note on Menchie’s store said, promising to reach out to Ragland and train its employees to better handle similar situations.
The letter said a formal apology would be extended to Ragland and that the store would be closed to conduct training with the staff so “this will not happen again in our store.”
Ragland gave a statement at the protest, but didn’t take questions.
“We definitely should boycott this store,” Ragland said. Referring to the employees who prompted store owner Ramon Cruz to call the police to report him, he said: “Those two young ladies that were petrified, they should definitely take a break from work, especially from the customer-service realm.”
Ragland said he wanted Cruz to lose his business license.
“Let me tell you what I think is going to inspire change,” he said. “When the lease to this store is up we need to make sure Byron Ragland has the capital and resources to purchase this Menchie’s.”
The crowd clapped and laughed as Ragland added that his demand would be a “good place to start. That would make me feel better. That would be a look in the right direction.”
“That’s how you punish white supremacy and anti-black behavior,” he said. “You hit it hard and you hit it fast right in its pockets.”
Outrage over the incident prompted Kirkland police to announce an internal investigation to determine if “proper protocol” had been followed. On Monday, the city announced it had reached “preliminary findings” in the investigation and issued an apology to Ragland and the people of Kirkland.
However, the department would not say if policies or laws were violated and a spokesperson would not talk about the officers’ behavior, saying the investigation was not complete.
Cruz called police on Ragland after his employees called him to report that they were “kind of scared because he looks suspicious. He just keeps looking at the phone and looking at them,” according to audio of Cruz’s 911 call. The call-taker told Cruz officers could come “tell him to move along,” according to the audio.