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Activists Protest Black Man’s Death

July 17, 2000

DETROIT (AP) _ Civil rights leaders and hundreds of protesters rallied at the federal courthouse Monday to draw attention to last month’s choking death of a black man outside a suburban mall.

The demonstrators contended that Frederick Finley, 32, was a victim of racial profiling. Finley died after an altercation with Lord & Taylor security guards in which he was subdued with a choke hold. His family had been suspected of shoplifting inside the store.

``Lord & Taylor does not respect us,″ Martin Luther King III told the crowd at the protest. ``We must not do business with retail establishments that do not respect us.″

Part-time store guard Dennis Richardson, who also is black, is charged with involuntary manslaughter in Finley’s death. Police have said charges will not be filed against Finley’s family.

Protesters chanted ``Fired up, we can’t take no more,″ and ``Take the Lord off of Taylor,″ in between speakers, who also included the Rev. Wendell Anthony of the Detroit NAACP, attorney Geoffrey Fieger and activist Dick Gregory. A much larger protest was held outside the store on July 5, the day before the guard was charged.

The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department has opened a preliminary investigation into Finley’s death, said Gina Vitrano, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney in Detroit.

Lord & Taylor’s parent company, May Department Stores, said it is cooperating with the investigation.

``We have always maintained, and continue to do so now, that the tragic occurrence at our store was not a racial incident,″ the company said in a statement Monday. ``Lord & Taylor does not condone racial prejudice and does not engage in racial profiling.″

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