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‘Power & White District’ in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) - In a federal class action, four black men claim businesses in Kansas City's popular Power & Light entertainment district enforce dress codes so selectively against African Americans that the district has come to be known as the "Power & White District." The class claims that white men wearing identical clothing to black men are admitted, while black men are turned away.

"Defendant has been aware of hundreds of complaints by African-American patrons to its Kansas City development: 'Power and Light District' and, instead of seriously addressing these issues, has instead chosen to consider this documented treatment of African-Americans as an 'unnecessary distraction,'" the complaint states.

"This purposeful exclusion has led some to dub this district the 'Power and White District'. Indeed, at least two African-Americans were denied entry to KCLive! and told to visit other black oriented clubs in the city."

The plaintiffs say the dress code is unfairly applied, based upon race.

Three plaintiffs - Robert Jackson, Kirk Proctor and Jerome Porter - say they were allowed into the district on Aug. 28, 2009 but denied entry into the Maker's Mark bar and lounge because of their baggy clothing, though white people who were dressed similarly were allowed in.

Plaintiff Marcus McMiller claims he was denied entry into the district on Sept. 23, 2008 for his dress, though similarly dressed whites were allowed in.

Jackson, Proctor and Porter said they were assaulted by a security guard while trying to leave Maker's Mark peacefully.

"After the security guard told Mr. Proctor that his shirt was 'excessively long' Mr.

Proctor told the security guard that KCLive! was excessively racist," the complaint states. "The security guard then began shoving the gentlemen toward the Walnut street exit.

"The gentlemen did not push the guard back and continued to try to leave the premises. The gentlemen headed toward the Grand Street exit. Then, the guard forcefully shoved Mr. Jackson extremely hard about 10-15 ft. into a table and barstool."

McMiller says he tried to enter KCLive! with his wife but was stopped because his necklace was too long. After he told the security guard he would take it to his car, he was told his shorts were too long.

"Mr. McMiller identified two individuals, including a white male, who had on the same style shorts that Mr. McMiller was wearing," the complaint states. "Mr. McMiller asked the guard if the Caucasian man was properly dressed and the guard stated 'yep.'

"Mr. McMiller asked the guard what the difference between he and the Caucasian gentleman wearing the same style shorts was and the guard replied 'He's in and you're not'.

"At that time, although Mr. McMiller had not raised his voice, several security guards surrounded Mr. Miller and made it clear to him that he was not going to be allowed in despite the fact that he violated no policies or rules. On Mr. McMiller's way out of the KCLive! area, he saw an African-American guard, also an agent for defendants, and asked the guard 'why do they do people like that?' and the guard stated 'they don't want blacks in there, it ain't for us.'"

The plaintiffs claim KCLive's discriminatory policies were revealed by a tester group sent by the City of Kansas City after it received numerous complaints. The testers included 11 men: whites, blacks and Hispanics.

"The tester group was sent to KCLive! on September 18-19th, 2009 after 9:30 p.m. on both nights," the complaint states. "Wearing garments that did not violate the City's Ordinance, the results of the test showed that: a. The Caucasian individuals were not denied entry at all; b. The African-American individuals were denied entry four times; and c. The Hispanic individuals were denied entry three times.

"The reasons provided to the African-American and Hispanics were: a. Shirt too long; b. Sleeves too long; c. Shorts too baggy; d. Shirt too baggy; e. Shorts too long.

"However, the KCLive! dress code does not restrict the length of shirttails, length of sleeves or the length of shorts. As such, the reasons provided were a pretext for the real reason for denial: discrimination."

The plaintiffs claim KCLive's discriminatory policies extend to entertainment. Of the 27 acts that were scheduled in 2010, there were no African-American acts and only two of the groups contained one African-American member.

The class seeks an injunction and at least $5 million in damages for violations of the Civil Rights Act. They are represented by Lawrence Williamson.

The plaintiffs filed a previous federal class action in August 2010. The complaint was dismissed on Feb. 16 due to improper service.

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