Black couple take legal action after being forced to prove ownership of their clothing store

Image for article titled Black couple take justice into their own hands after being forced to prove ownership of their clothing store

Photo: Marina Larina (Shutterstock)

In August 2020, as the world demanded justice for George Floydfrom murder at the hands of the police, the sleepy town of Tiburon, Calif., was mishandling its own officers meet the public. Married couple Yema Khalif and Hawi Awash were approached by an officer late at night while restocking their Main Street sportswear store. Yema, the men’s clothing store that bears the same name as one of its owners, was the only black-owned business in town, which was apparently all that was needed to attract the attention of racist cops. . Constable Isaac Madfes entered the store after closing around 1am on the night of August 21. Madfes then asked what they were doing so late in the store, questioning the owners as they remained calm. The full incident was captured on Madfes body camera.

“Is there a problem?” Khalif said.

“I don’t want to argue,” the officer said. “I just want you to tell me why you’re here.”

Khalif asked to speak to a supervising officer, and when Sgt. Michael Blasi arrived on the scene, he asked Khalif to put his key in the lock to prove that he owned the building. Just when he was about to give in to the sergeant’s request, a white neighbor stepped in, shouting, “That’s his store!” from his balcony. Officers left soon after.

The story wasn’t over as Khalif first threatened a $2 million lawsuit in federal court for what he and his partner endured. The couple, however, later decided to settle the dispute in another matter. The point of divergence turned out to be a set of reforms carried out with the help of business owners and city officials. Last Tuesday, the reforms were announced by the couple outside their clothing store.

“That this happened was very unfortunate and still is unfortunate,” Khalif said at a press conference outside Yema. “We’re hoping that (the Tiburon accord) will be something that other cities, other counties can actually copy.”

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the reforms include expecting officers to start “carrying business cards with information on how to raise concerns about interactions.” Officers will also undergo bias training every two years instead of every five years.

“August. February 21, 2020 was extremely traumatic,” Awash said on Tuesday. “I am happy that Tiburon has taken responsibility and made real and substantial policy changes.”

While Sgt. Blasi resigned along with Police Chief Michael Cronin, Madfes retained his officer badge at Tiburon. Jon Welner, the town’s mayor, says that despite the contamination incident, he is happy to see it resolved outside of court.

“The changes proposed by Yema and Hawi are very positive and will help position the City of Tiburon as a leader in the areas of diversity, inclusion and transparency,” he said in a statement. Press.

Along with the reforms, the couple also received $150,000, part of which they say will fund a scholarship program already in place.

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