EASTON—Local businessman and activist Khaliq Al-Shabazz sued Wawa Food Markets on Tuesday, claiming he was humiliated when he was wrongly targeted as a shoplifter by the manager at the chain’s Downtown store because of his race.
The 39-year-old West Easton man said he was accused of shoplifting despite his notoriety in the community and his familiarity with the store. He said he has purchased coffee at the Larry Holmes Drive store every morning for the last 10 years. He claims he was singled out because he is black.
The suit says that on July 28 he poured himself a cup of coffee from the self-serve counter, paid for it and was asked to return to the store and empty his pockets by the manager. She accused him of stealing candy, the suit says. Al-Shabazz had creamers and sugar in his pockets but no candy, the suit says.
Al-Shabazz, formerly known as Parrish McClain, made news as a controversial business owner, criminal and crime fighter in the 1990s.
In 1995, he began organizing the minority voters’ drive Minority Vote. He also started an anti-violence campaign called Guns Down, which included a toll-free number for people to give tips about developing violent situations.
Al-Shabazz was called on to help the Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society in 1996 in gathering contacts and information in the black community for an exhibit on African-American history in the Lehigh Valley.
He spoke out against drug crimes in 2000, nine years after he had been sentenced to probation for selling drugs to an undercover police officer.
He bought part of a historic Fourth Street building in 1992 and opened a bring-your-own-bottle nightclub. Three patrons were stabbed in a drug-related brawl six months after the club opened, and Al-Shabazz closed it down soon afterward. On Oct. 6, 1992, a fire destroyed the building.
Al-Shabazz opened a weekend flea market on the site in June 1993. Exactly one year later, he sold the lot to Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church.
He was in the news most recently when he was sentenced to two years of probation for attacking his wife and 3-year-old child in 2002.
Al-Shabazz claims he suffered “humiliation, embarrassment, public ridicule and emotional distress” as a result of the incident. A spokeswoman for Wawa Food Markets of Wawa, Delaware County, did not return a phone call Tuesday.
Al-Shabazz filed the suit on his own behalf.