Black Couple Racially Profiled During Marriage Proposal in Upstate NY Orchard

A Black woman claims she and her fiancé were racially profiled at a cidery in New York during her fiancé’s proposal.

Cathy-Marie Hamlet wrote on Facebook that she, her fiancé, and a group of friends drove to Walden, New York to Angry Orchard to celebrate her fiancé’s 40th birthday. Hamlet told NBC News that she and her fiancé Clyde Jackson were sitting at a table outside of the orchard’s gift shop when a female security guard approached them and accused Jackson of stealing a T-shirt and putting it in his back pocket.

“My boyfriend walked me out to an empty table on the lawn, and before we could sit down, a young lady from security approached us and said to him, ‘I’m sorry sir, but I have to check [your] back pocket. I was told that you stole a T-shirt from the gift store,’” Hamlet wrote on Facebook. “My boyfriend then emptied all of his pockets, while still trying to keep the ring box hidden from my sight.”

After the security guard left, Hamlet said Jackson started his proposal speech. Midway through Jackson’s speech, the security guard came back and asked to see Hamlet’s purse to check if the T-shirt was inside. Hamlet, 32, wrote that she complied and emptied her purse, though she noted in her post that her bag was too small to fit a T-shirt inside. The 32-year-old then asked the security guard if they were being searched because they are the only Black people currently at the Orchard, but the security guard denied this.

After checking Hamlet’s bag, the soon-to-be bride said Jackson popped the question to which she said yes. A few minutes after six friends had joined the couple to celebrate, Hamlet wrote that the same security guard returned and informed the group that security wanted to check all of their friends’ pockets and purses. The security guards then began to act aggressively and one of the security guards instructed another guard to call the police.

“It started to get confrontational and I wasn’t interested in waiting around for the police because we didn’t know what would happen,” Hamlet told NBC News.

She says security took her picture, pictures of the group, and her license plate. Hamlet said the group then decided to leave instead of being harrassed “by the multiple security guards of Angry Orchard.”

“I have never been so humiliated in my life, myself and some of my friends left Angry Orchard in tears,” Hamlet wrote. “On what was supposed to be one of the best days of my life, I was chased out of Angry Orchard by security who followed us all the way to the parking lot.”

Hamlet wrote that Angry Orchard owes her and her friends an apology. Included in her Facebook post is a picture of some of the security guards smiling and mockingly waving goodbye.

“Angry Orchard if you don’t want Black people buying your product or frequenting your establishment, then maybe put a sign on the door so that we know we are not welcome,” Hamlet wrote on Facebook. “I love hard cider, but Angry Orchard will never touch these lips again.”

On July 23, Angry Orchard posted a statement on its Twitter page, issuing an apology to Hamlet and her friends and explaining that they have “replaced the security team members and the manager who was on duty.”

The orchard also stated it would implement “additional, mandatory training on security awareness and unconscious bias for everyone on staff to prevent something like this from happening in the future.”

“We’re deeply sorry that our guests were mistreated,” the statement read. “This event does not reflect our company values of respect for all and creating a welcoming environment for our guests, and while we wish this did not occur at all, we are treating this moment as a valuable learning experience for our staff.”

This is not the first time a Black couple has said they were racially profiled at an establishment this summer. Earlier this month, a Black family claimed they were racially profiled at a Nike store in Santa Monica, California while they were trying to purchase a $12 basketball for their son.

TaMiya Dickerson wrote on Facebook that her toddler’s father, Joel Stallworth, purchased a basketball for their son from the store. After they left the store, the store manager accused them of stealing the basketball and asked to see their receipt.

Stallworth told KTLA5 that the manager never apologized over the incident after they proved they had purchased the basketball from the store.

“To accuse somebody of stealing, you need to have evidence, right? So she just accused me. She had zero evidence that I stole anything. She couldn’t have evidence because I bought it. She discriminated against me,” Stallworth said. “She planted an evil seed in the officer, so as soon as the officer came up to me, he said, ‘Sir, give me the stolen ball.'”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.