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Arrest over hat leads to EpiCentre boycott

Last week, Phillip Agnew headed to Charlotte's EpiCentre for the weekly Alive After Five event. But now he says it's unlikely he'll ever return to the uptown restaurant and entertainment venue after a sideways-turned hat resulted in his arrest.

The 25-year-old has launched a campaign to boycott the EpiCentre, claiming it discriminates against young black people through its "selective" dress code enforcement.

Agnew said he'd been to the EpiCentre many times before, often wearing a hat not turned forward. But on June 2, he was outdoors on the EpiCentre's top floor, listening to a band perform, when a security officer approached him and told he was violating the dress code, he said. He was asked to turn his hat around.

Agnew refused, he said.

"I told them I was dressed just like everybody else for the weather," he said.

Then two police officers approached and asked him if he was causing trouble, Agnew recalled. They asked him to turn his hat around, but again he refused. That's when he was escorted out, handcuffed and taken to jail. He was charged with second-degree trespassing.

EpiCentre management could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Signs are posted throughout EpiCentre, including two posted at the College Street entrances, listing the code of conduct, which bans panhandling, skateboarding and backpacks among other things. They also lay out a dress code.

"The following is not permitted: Profanity on clothing, sleeveless shirts on men, bandanas, hats not worn forward, excessively torn clothing, undershirts, work boots, excessively baggy or sagging clothing, shirts of an inappropriate length, sweatsuits or athletic attire," the signs read.

The signs also say that dress codes of venues inside the EpiCentre may vary, and management reserves the right to refuse admission to or remove from the premises anyone whose "conduct is deemed to be disorderly or who fails to comply with the terms of entry."

Agnew, a black man who lives in Charlotte and works in sales, said he believes the policy discriminates against young urban African-Americans. Agnew has launched a Facebook page called "Do Not Enter the (Epi)Center" to raise support for his boycott. The page had about 130 supporters by Thursday evening.