California 11-year-old boy falsely accused of stealing sandwich at Safeway

A California pre-teen was falsely accused of stealing food from a local supermarket. In response on May 5, dozens of students and teachers from Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy and community members protested at a Safeway in San Francisco, California.

11-year-old Ja’Mari Oliver was accused of stealing a sandwich from the grocery store, although showing security guards his receipt according to San Francisco Examiner. The incident took place on Monday, April 26, when Oliver was on his way to school for his first in-person session since schools shut down and turned to virtual learning. Oliver purchased a sandwich at the Safeway. Then on his way out the store Oliver was approached by three grocery store employees who asked him whether he had paid for his item.

Oliver says he showed them his receipt, however, the employees allegedly wouldn’t let him leave until the store manager cleared him. Oliver told the news outlet that the experience made him “sad.” He added, “I felt scared like something could have happened. I was just crying.”

A school employee, Ryan Swick, says he noticed a change in Oliver’s demeanor when he got to school that day.  “He was very shaken up, not his usual self at school,” Swick said. “Kids are aware that this kind of stuff happens. You don’t think it happens to someone in your community until it happens to someone in your community.”

Many people believed Oliver had been racially profiled, and they organized a one-mile march to the Safeway store. The group carried “Black Lives Matter” and other signs as they chanted “Safeway is not safe” in a show of support for Oliver.

The 5th grader’s mom, Tatiana Oliver, told KRON 4 that she’s always advised her son to keep his receipt when he makes a purchase, “but only if like he wanted to return it; not because I would think someone would think he would steal.”

A  spokesperson for Safeway, confirmed the incident saying those involved were “removed” from the store. “The store manager was unaware of what happened until the young man returned to the store with his mother,” she added. “We extended our most sincere apologies for the boy’s unsettling experience. While our internal investigation is ongoing, we can tell you that this is counter to our policies and training.”

In a statement sent to KRON 4, the company said, “Across all of our stores, we strive for an environment where everyone is treated with courtesy, dignity, and respect — clearly this instance fell short of our expectations.”

The store has since offered the boy and his mother a $25 gift card. “Something like that can’t fix what happened,” the mom said in response to the gift card.

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