A man in the middle of asking his girlfriend to be his wife was stopped mid-proposal at a New York farm Sunday, and the bride-to-be said the interruption was because they are black.
Cathy-Marie Hamlet said her fiancé and six friends drove from New York City to the Angry Orchard farm in Walden, New York, on Sunday to celebrate her fiancé’s 40th birthday, but shortly after arriving, their festivities were interrupted.
Hamlet, 32, told NBC News on Monday that she and Clyde Jackson were sitting at a table outside the orchard’s gift shop when a female security guard approached them, accused Jackson of stealing a T-shirt and asked to check his back pocket.
“My boyfriend then emptied all of his pockets, while still trying to keep the ring box hidden from my sight,” Hamlet said. “She then walked away, and my boyfriend and I sat down at the table and he began his proposal speech.”
But mid-way through, the couple was interrupted again, Hamlet said.
“She came back over to us and said, ‘Now I need to search your purse,'" Hamlet said. "My bag was small and I couldn’t have fit a T-shirt in it, but I emptied the contents of my purse anyway."
After the second interruption, Hamlet said she asked the security guard what her motives were for approaching them.
“I told her that I knew she was just doing her job, but I couldn’t help but wonder if she kept coming up to us because we’re black,” Hamlet said. “We were the only black people there, besides three of the friends who came along with us.”
Hamlet said the security guard denied that she approached them because they’re black and left once her search for a gift-store T-shirt turned up empty.
But the security guard approached the couple a third time, Hamlet said, immediately after she accepted Jackson’s proposal and the pair's friends gathered to celebrate.
“She said, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were all part of the same party. I have to check all of your purses and pockets,’” Hamlet said. “At this point, five other security guards came over."
"I felt humiliated, especially after one of my white friends made a point of asking them to check her bag for the T-shirt, but they refused to do so," Hamlet said.
One of the security guards instructed another to call the police, according to Hamlet, after which the group decided to leave.
“It started to get confrontational and I wasn’t interested in waiting around for the police because we didn’t know what would happen,” Hamlet told NBC News.
Hamlet said the security guards took pictures of the group and her license plate as they left.
Taylor Roy, a senior communications specialist at Boston Beer Company, which owns Angry Orchards, said the company has reached out to the couple "to try to make things right and prevent something like this from happening again."
Roy said that although the interaction was "based on what the security guards thought was a credible claim, it was mishandled" and the company will be conducting additional training for its staff.
Hamlet said in a lengthy Facebook post on Sunday that she left the orchard in tears.
She addressed the orchard directly, writing, "if you don’t want black people buying your product or frequenting your establishment, then maybe put a sign on the door so that we know we are not welcome. I love hard cider, but Angry Orchard will never touch these lips again."
Hamlet said what was supposed to be a joyous occasion was ruined.
“I feel confused and conflicted over what to do now and how to move forward, that one of the happiest moments of my life could be partially overshadowed like this,” Hamlet said Monday. “It’s sad that in 2019 we still need to have these conversations.”