California store owners who say they were racially profiled by police reach $150K settlement with town

Yema Khalif and Hawi Awash will also join a newly created community board for the town of Tiburon that will help vet candidates for the police department.

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A California couple has reached a $150,000 settlement with the town of Tiburon in Marin County after claiming they were racially profiled by police nearly two years ago while working inside their own store. 

The encounter occurred in August 2020, when officers came to the clothing store, Yema, where proprietors Yema Khalif and his wife, Hawi Awash, were inside working late. According to an ABC 7 News report after the incident, there is a video of a Tiburon Police officer saying, “This street closes at 9 o’clock at night, and there’s never anybody in here. This isn’t regular business hours, there’s no customers in there.”

The town of Tiburon in Marin County, California, is coughing up $150,000 after its police racially profiled Yema Khalif and his wife, Hawi Awash, while the two were working late inside their own store. (Photo: Screenshot/abc7news.com)

“Is it your store? That’s all we want to know,” the officer continued. “I want to know what you’re doing in the store at 1 o’clock in the morning.”

The officers demanded proof that the Black couple owed the store. A white neighbor diffused the situation by confirming their identity, and Awash said one officer had his hand on his gun at the time. Now, Khalif and Awash will receive a $150,000 settlement and join a newly created community advisory board for the town of Tiburon that will help vet candidates for the police department. 

“We are not begging, we are demanding to be treated with love, with dignity and with respect,” Khalif said Tuesday at a press conference, according to ABC 7 News

“This isn’t about just me and Yema,” Awash said. “It’s about every single Black and Brown person that comes into the Tiburon community, that comes into the Belvedere community.”

Tiburon is in Marin County, an upscale Northern California hub outside of San Francisco.

Khalif and Awash were joined at the press conference by Paul Austin, who claimed his house was undervalued by half a million dollars during the home appraisal process because he and his wife are Black. He said, “Marin County, there’s so much more work we can do in order to make this place a true melting pot.” 

As previously reported by theGrio, Austin and his wife, Tenisha Tate-Austin, have filed a lawsuit related to the appraisal and have gotten support from the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, which filed a statement of interest in the case earlier this year. 

Khalif and Awash said that they have experienced other incidents at their store since the story went viral, including someone questioning why they use black mannequins. The couple said they have also gotten threatening messages. They have installed security cameras outside Yema. 

The couple is optimistic that change will come as a result of the incident. “We are doing something that is substantial,” contended Awash, “that will help Tiburon and that will hopefully be an example for the rest of the U.S.”

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