Target customer confronts employee in Black Lives Matter mask

Janelle Griffith-July 1, 2020, 1:01 PM EDT

An employee at a Target store on Long Island, New York, said she was confronted by a customer who demanded she remove a Black Lives Matter mask because the woman found it offensive.

The customer denies that account, saying that an argument began when she asked the employee, “Don’t you think all lives matter?”

A video posted to Instagram by the Target employee after the interaction Thursday shows the customer outside the store being asked to leave by security for “disturbing business.”

”We want everyone who shops and works at Target to feel welcomed and respected,” a Target spokeswoman said in a statement Tuesday. “Based on a situation that escalated at our Selden, New York, store on June 25, we asked a guest to leave the premises.”

The employee, Tana, who asked to be identified only by her first name out of fear for her safety, said she has been a barista at the Target Starbucks in Selden since February. She said she has worn a mask that features the words Black Lives Matter with an image of a fist for three weeks.

Target requires its employees to wear masks. The retailer does not have a policy banning employees from wearing face coverings with designs.

Tana, 21, who is Hispanic, said the shopper was being assisted by another Target employee at Guest Services, when the confrontation began about 1 p.m. Thursday. She said the customer asked, “You do know all lives matter, right?”

Tana said she responded, “Yes,” and told the customer she is entitled to her opinion, but all lives can’t matter until Black lives matter.

“She then said my mask was offending her and I needed to take it the f— off my face,” Tana said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I was telling her I am allowed to wear this mask, the CEO of Target is all about the Black Lives Matter movement.”

The shopper was identified by social media users as Bari Slavin, and in a phone interview with NBC News on Wednesday, Slavin confirmed it was her.

Slavin, 53, who works as a health aide, said she never instructed Tana to remove the mask, but she did take exception to the words on it.

“The girl was wearing the Black Lives Matter mask. And I said to her, ‘Don’t you think all lives matter?'” Slavin said. “She didn’t like that.”

Slavin said Tana was “going tit for tat” with her.

“It’s not just the Blacks or the African Americans or whatever the case may be. You had your moment,” she said Wednesday, apparently referring to the nationwide protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody in May. “It’s a disgrace what happened to Floyd. But some of these people are animals.”

Asked what she meant by “some of those people,” Slavin said, “Whoever was looting.”

She added: “And quite honestly, why do you only see Black people doing all the crazy things that’s reported with the cops? I don’t even want to hear that it’s Black people that are suffering. It’s not. Everyone is suffering. It’s all about the element of the people that you’re dealing with.”

Slavin, who lives in Port Jefferson, insisted she is not racist and said that she was attacked at the Target store. She said she filed a complaint with Suffolk police on Monday and plans to press charges. She said she did not know what the charges would be or against whom, but that she would confer with her lawyer.

A Suffolk police spokesperson said the department was aware of the video. “The incident was reported to police on June 29 and is under investigation,” the spokesperson said Tuesday. Police did not disclose the name of the complainant.

During the dispute, Tana recalled Slavin saying her ancestors were in the Holocaust, which is “worse than slavery.” She also said Slavin told her she needed “to educate” herself.” Slavin denies bringing up the Holocaust.

Tana said Slavin loudly accused her of being “racist against white people,” prompting a security guard to intervene. The guard told Slavin, “If you do not leave, we will call the police,” Tana said.

Tana said Slavin responded: “Do you want more police brutality to come? Because they will come.”

Tana said the guard, who is Black, was taken aback by the woman’s response.

“He was being very civil with her,” Tana said. “He told her that she was causing a disturbance.”

Slavin said she left the store after making an exchange of some items and that she went to a nearby Home Depot.

Tana said that about half an hour after the incident, when her shift ended, she went outside to meet her boyfriend who was waiting in his car. Tana said she spotted Slavin trying to re-enter the store so she went back inside to alert her managers and security, and that Slavin said she was recording a video to document her experiences. Tana said she heard Slavin saying she was going to go back inside the store to “record faces.”

Tana’s boyfriend, Christian, recorded the video of Slavin outside the store that Tana uploaded to her Instagram account. Tana said she believed they needed to film it in case Slavin later claimed she was attacked.

In the video, a security guard can be heard telling Slavin, “You can’t disturb business, that’s why you were removed.”

“No one is disturbing business,” she responds. “I’m talking and she was yapping at me. And it’s OK. It was tit for tat.”

Slavin, who was carrying her mask in her hand, approaches Tana to capture her name tag on camera.

“I’m going to ask you to leave one more time,” a security guard in a red long-sleeved shirt tells her. “And if I have to ask again, I have to call the police.”

Slavin digs into her bag in an apparent attempt to retrieve something to give to the guard. He then tells her, “I’m not taking any merchandise from you.”

She responds: “Oh, you’re not taking anything? Well, this is going to corporate.” She also says that she has the right to her opinion. The guard replies, “Yes, you do.”

Slavin says, “And you know what? I’m telling you that Black lives suck because they got killed.” She mentions the name “Floyd” and says, “So I’m telling you that I’m Jewish and my ancestors were also slaves and also in the concentration camps.”

“So you should understand,” Tana’s boyfriend responds. Slavin then says: “It’s not Black lives. It’s everybody.”

The guard tells her that he did not want to argue with her about her opinion. She continues: “What about the Chinese? What about the Mexicans? What about everybody else in the world.” She also says that there are “a lot of Black people that are f—— disgusting” and accuses the guard of calling her a bigot, which he denies.

The video was widely shared online where Slavin was dubbed Ku Klux Karen, among other nicknames. Some sided with her in the comments of the Instagram post and accused Tana of “playing the race card.” Slavin said she has received threats on social media since the video went viral.

Tana said she did not share the video on Instagram so people would come after Slavin.

“I just wanted people to see this is happening everywhere,” she said. “And it’s happening to essential workers that are doing absolutely nothing wrong.”

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