Market St. Safeway Racially Profiles An 11-Year-Old, Kids’ Protest Ensues

Updated: May 07, 2021 09:31
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Image: Doug Brown

11-year-old Ja’Mari Oliver was on his way to his first day back at school last Monday, after 14 long months away from his classmates. He bought a sandwich at the deli counter of the Safeway at Church and Market, while his mom waited outside. But even though Ja’Mari had his receipt proving he bought the sandwich, two security guards and Safeway staff accused him of stealing the sandwich and detained the Black youngster.  

Image: Heather Brown

But Ja’Mari’s classmates at the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy wouldn‘t tolerate it. A large crowd of students from the Castro neighborhood public school left the school grounds Wednesday afternoon to go confront the Safeway management.

Image: Doug Brown

Having more than a hundred elementary school students protest your grocery store is obviously terrible public relations, and it didn’t have to come to this. First, the kid should not have been profiled. And secondly, two staff members of color from the Milk Academy went to the Safeway the next day to address the situation.

Image: Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy via Facebook

“They hoped to have a conversation that would start to repair the harm that was caused,” according to a letter from the academy’s principal Emmanuel Stewart and the school’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee, reprinted in the Chronicle. The staff apparently “were met with hostility, disregard, and disrespect by store employees, who tried to dismiss the situation,” according to the letter. 

Image: Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy via Facebook

A Safeway spokesperson acknowledged the incident in a statement to the Chronicle, but seemed to deflect blame to the security guards.  “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,” spokesperson Wendy Gutshall told the Chronicle. “The young man at the center of this unfortunate interaction was asked for a receipt by third-party security guards. He produced his receipt and left the store. When he later returned with his mother and spoke with our store director, we extended our most sincere apologies for the boy’s unsettling experience.”

Image: Heather Brown

Safeway sure did “fall short of expectations” on this one. But the kids at Harvey Milk Academy exceeded expectations and inspired us by banding together and organizing an immediate protest to stick up for their classmate. 


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  1. gail.s.
    May 5, 2021 at 6:21 pm

    He was just asked for a receipt? That’s pretty common at that store. I’ve been asked. Pretty sure the guards there most of them are black as well.

    • May 6, 2021 at 1:42 pm

      STFU, Gail. You’re assuming the guards were black because”Why? Did you even read the story, DF? They just didn’t ask for the receipt, they accused him of stealing after he presented it

      • Cadence
        May 6, 2021 at 2:17 pm

        Safeway is only apologizing because it became public. But their false accusation with zero evidence is common, and there needs to be consequences for harassing people and or assaulting them.

  2. Mary mcgarvey
    May 6, 2021 at 12:36 am

    What surprised me in this story is that the Safeway staff reacted to anything at all
    Going on in their store. Safeway seems
    To have a policy of ignoring shoplifting generally because they know that none of it will be prosecuted under Boudin. Well, at least up to $25, they said in the papers…. especially at the Wharf.
    this boy had a receipt and his mother was there although not with him in the store. Do kids shop on their own at age 11? We didn’t, but that was a long time ago.

  3. Susan
    May 6, 2021 at 11:39 am

    I worked at a Safeway (not in SF) a few years ago and I watched people walk out without paying every day. Mostly it was elderly men and women and occasionally a few teenagers. All white. One time two black women came in and did their shopping with their kids tagging along. After checking out they were confronted by two workers who went over everything in their cart to match it with their receipt. They looked humiliated. To this day, I regret not going over and confronting my co-workers over their racism.

  4. Cadence
    May 6, 2021 at 2:11 pm

    Yeah security guards are often black, they’re still power tripping a-holes.

    Many people get brutalized. Just look up how many people sued Safeway for assault and harassment by their goon squad.

    They treat people like crap.

  5. Robyn Marks
    May 6, 2021 at 2:50 pm

    And the store offered a whopping 25$ gift card to the boy’s family. Why would they even want to go there again? Better yet, hope the kids protest every week.

  6. Diane Miller
    May 6, 2021 at 3:24 pm

    They kept my 35 half rolls of Lifesavers. I got arrested and refused to plea bargain. I brought the paper bag used by the store to put my 2 bottles of wine. I got squirted. Security guard also worked at another Safeway. Came to court with a broken arm, not by me.

  7. Chad Goller-Sojourner
    May 9, 2021 at 3:53 pm

    “He was just asked for a receipt? That’s pretty common at that store. I’ve been asked. Pretty sure the guards there most of them are black as well.” Stop making shit up. You know damn well it’s not a common practice to ask to see a receipt they just handed you. How the hell do you know what color the security guards were.

  8. Cheryl Gafner
    August 18, 2021 at 12:21 pm

    This incident makes me want to projectile vomit. 🤮🤬