Will Mega already got Lowe's to suspend its policy of checking receipts when customers leave inner-city stores — a policy he calls racist given that it happened to him in West Philadelphia, but when he went to a different, suburban Lowe's store, he was told they didn't take such precautions in the "white hood."
But, that's not enough for Mega, or for Eric Franks, a Philadelphia firefighter who said he and his brother were called the "n-word" by a staffer at the very same Lowe's, off North 52nd Street in the ParkWest Town Center shopping complex.
"We want accountability," said Franks, standing in front of the store holding a sign that said "I'm a customer, not a criminal." At a brief Saturday afternoon demonstration — joined by State Sen. Sharif Street and State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, Philadelphia NAACP President Rodney Muhammad, and other local community leaders — Franks and Mega called for a boycott unless the home-improvement giant meets a long list of demands. Those included companywide antibias training, a commitment to diversity in the corporate office, a public apology, a permanent end to the receipt-checking policy, and a $15 hourly minimum wage at the store.
Franks said that after the incident took place last spring, he visited the store two days in a row just to get a manager to speak with him — and promises of follow-up from Lowe's never materialized. Eventually, he let it slide.
But after he saw what Mega had already accomplished, he decided to speak out.
"It's like the #MeToo movement: We always complained about the policy with the receipts, but [Mega] took it a step further," he said. "Last year at this time in the media, I don't even know what's going on. But now, there's a little more attention."
He was referring to a series of incidents that have drawn media coverage and triggered public outrage: the arrest of two black men sitting quietly at a Center City Starbucks, a group of women in York who faced police questioning for golfing while black, and, just days ago, a viral video of a black teen who was apparently arrested while selling water outside the Philadelphia Zoo.
Mega, a political strategist, said he's prepared to escalate the Lowe's issue as needed to elicit a substantive response.
That's where Street comes in. The state senator said he had already urged the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission to investigate the matter.
"I'm standing here to say: Folks are paying attention," he said. "This is important. This is an issue many of us in the General Assembly take very seriously."
A Lowe's spokesperson did not immediately respond to a voicemail Saturday. In response to previous inquiries, the company provided a statement via email: "It is always our intent to make everyone feel welcome while shopping at Lowe's. We have personally reached out to Mr. Mega to understand more about his experience and continue the dialogue."
While Mega shouted into a megaphone — "Boycott Lowe's! Black people, take your money elsewhere! Stop allowing yourself to be racially profiled!" — a few people stopped to listen. Many others continued their shopping.
"I'm with y'all, but I've got to return this," Barbara Oberlton told them, though she said she would try to avoid the store in the future.
Geneiva Irons looked torn as she stood talking with the protesters. She supported their cause — but she'd just taken the bus all the way to the store from North Philadelphia, and she had to get her errands done.