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Overdressed

Overdressed

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Published by asphaltmoon

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Published by: asphaltmoon on Nov 03, 2010
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10/24/2012

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Overdressed
By Barry Graham
published: May 21, 1998
It was an ordinary day in Scottsdale, business as usual.Nothing unusual happened. Real estate appreciated.The sun shone. A black guy was viewed with suspicionand got hassled by the cops. Nothing unusual. You could believe it hadn't happened, if not for all the people whosaw it. One of them thought it so outrageous that hecontacted me.The alleged victim apparently doesn't want to talk aboutit, so I'm not going to name him. But I'm going to tellthe story anyway, because it shouldn't go unreported. There should be a record of life in the"No-Nigger Zone."E.D. Marshall's jewelry store is in a strip mall at Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard. The center alsohouses a pawn shop and a real estate school.On the afternoon of April 24, a black man entered the store. He was in his 30s or 40s and was wearinga black suit. He told store staff he wanted to buy a link for the band on his watch.Someone called the cops. And when the man left the store, several Scottsdale police officers were waiting for him. Some witnesses say they had their guns drawn, others don't. They threw the man upagainst a car and handcuffed him. They ran a check on him and, finding his record clean, let him go.Jim Marrion, who owns the nearby real estate school, claims that Marshall, the store's owner, calledthe cops. One of Marrion's employees, who asked not to be named, claims that Marshall told her he'dcalled the cops because he "didn't like the guy's looks.""I just turned around and walked away when he said that to me," she says. "The [black] guy came inand talked to me. He was very articulate. He said he thought his rights had been violated." Was there anything about his looks that could have been considered objectionable?"No. He was wearing a suit.""That's how things work in the 'No-Nigger Zone,'" says Marrion."No-Nigger Zone" is a term allegedly coined by Scottsdale police to describe affluent areas of the city.The shopping center that contains Marshall's store is quiet when I arrive and park my car. I'm wearinga Beavis and Butt-head tee shirt, baggy denim shorts and a pair of ratty old sandals. My baseball cap ison backward. I'm unshaven. I'm going to see how the folks at Marshall's feel about my looks.The store doesn't look like the kind of place you'd visit to get a link for your watch band. It's the kind of 
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place that sells pieces of jewelry that cost thousands of dollars. It has a carpet so elegant you feel like you shouldn't be walking on it. I wander around, looking at the items on display. I get some interestinglooks from the staff, but no one says anything. Finally, rather than calling the cops on me, one of themasks if I need any help. I tell her I do, and ask for the owner.Ed Marshall is somewhere in his 40s, and looks like the stereotypical Arizonan. His steely gray hair iscombed straight back, and his skin is brown and leathery. He wears a white shirt and a tie. His manneris hearty.He admits that the incident happened but says it wasn't him or his staff that called the cops.The Scottsdale cops say otherwise, that a 911 call about a suspicious black man came from Marshall'sstore.He denies any racism on his part."Black people are welcome here," he says. "Anybody is."He says someone had let the air out of one of the man's tires, and, as well as wanting a link for his watch band, he asked to borrow an air pump, which Marshall didn't have. "So I went to the pawn shopto get him one. I'm a nice guy . . ."The guy told me he'd been to five jewelry stores trying to find the link he wanted. And somebody inone of the stores had called the cops and given them his license number. A cop told me they were onedigit off, so they thought the car was stolen. I felt bad for the guy. I told him I'd get him the link he wanted at cost, as an apology from the jewelry community." Asked about the witness's claim that he'd said he didn't like the guy's looks, Marshall at first denied it,then reconsidered. "You know, there's a good chance I said that to someone. I don't remember sayingit, but there's a good chance I did say something like that. But it wasn't the guy's color I was talkingabout. It was his suit." What was wrong with his suit?"That he was wearing one. Nobody wears a black suit in this heat. [The high temperature that day was84 degrees.] He was a decent-looking guy, nicely dressed. But he looked out of place. People inPhoenix don't walk around in the heat dressed like that. There have been robberies in jewelry stores inScottsdale. A guy looking like that is going to make people nervous." Why?"Look, if a guy comes in here dressed like you are, that's normal. A guy in a suit looks strange. If youcome in here, it doesn't matter what you're wearing--I'm gonna try to sell you some jewelry. But if youlook strange--like you've got a suit on--I'm gonna watch you. Can you tell me that if a guy in a suitcame into this store right now, you wouldn't be nervous?"Marshall doesn't think the cops were out of line."If I was that guy, I personally would be madder than hell. But you can't blame the cops. If they thought the guy might be a robber, they had to do something. And they had to be careful." When I left Marshall's store, I drove around Scottsdale for a while, stopping in stores and malls. I saw a few people wearing suits, and no one seemed to be calling the cops on them.I called the Scottsdale Police Department and asked if a report had been cut on the April 24 incident at
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