Chris Tutt says he purchased his shirt with the “F” word on it from the Spencer’s store in the Greenville mall.
But mall security on July 12 told Tutt he had to either turn his shirt inside out, or leave the mall.
When he refused, police were called.
The Greenville mall does not have a rule that explicitly bans clothing with profanity.
The mall does have a rule that bans “any activity that would generally disrupt or diminish a pleasant family oriented shopping experience.”
“I just got kicked out of Greenville Mall because of this shirt,” Tutt wrote on Facebook. “AND THEY SELL IT IN THE MALL AT SPENCER’S. COPS WERE CALLED ON ME... 6 COPS SHOWED UP FOR ME! I’M 5’7 110 LBS AND THEY HAD 6 COPS ON ME...”
Tutt’s shirt read “F--- I’m high.”
Tutt said he was in the mall earlier that day wearing the same shirt and has worn other, similar shirts and there were “no complaints.”
“I bought this shirt at the mall,” Tutt said. “Why am I not allowed to wear shirts that I bought at the mall? They’ve got shirts in there talking about Satan.”
Tutt said he felt targeted and harassed by mall personnel.
“I feel like I’m being harassed for no reason,” Tutt said in a video of the incident that had more than 151,000 views as of Sunday. “I want y’all to show me a rule that’s saying you can’t wear a shirt that has any cuss words on it ... This is freedom of speech.”
Mall management could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday.
“We’re not harassing you,” a person identified as a mall staff member says in the video. “We don’t want that word displayed in the mall.”
When pressed about the list of rules posted at the mall’s entrance not including one about profanity on clothing, the person on video says, “That’s a matter of interpretation.”
“I’m not touching anybody, I’m not doing anything wrong,” Tutt said. “I’m a paying customer.”
A second video includes Greenville police officers.
“I understand that he bought it at Spencer’s,” one officer says.
Spencer’s sells several pieces of merchandise with similar sentiments.
“Leave the parking lot or I’m going to take you into custody,” someone off camera says at the end of the video.
Tutt said he felt targeted because of his race, and he wanted to ensure nothing like this happens to anyone else.
“Let’s fight discrimination anyway possible to make Greenville and this country a better place for everyone,” he said. “People need to know that businesses cannot treat good paying customers like this.“
Tutt shared a press release from N.C. House District 9 candidate Kris Rixon that addressed his experience at the mall and called it “racial profiling in Pitt County.”
“The suggestion that an individual should be asked to leave a public area, privately or publicly owned, because of a disagreement over the First Amendment is ludicrous,” Rixon said in the statement. “It was clear that this gentleman was targeted and racially profiled. It is a shame that this happened right here in Greenville and the Greenville Police Department as well as the Greenville mall at minimum owe this man an apology.
“We need to work to ensure these individuals are given further training to avoid escalating situations like these. I am grateful to the contribution of law enforcement, however, this situation was blown way out of proportion. Nobody should be profiled for their clothing, their race or their ethnicity. As a county and as a state, we must explore ways of bridging the gap that exists between communities of color and law enforcement.”