Shaka Pitts wants a Towson liquor store owner to experience “economic hardship and social shame” as he and others have called on the public to boycott and protest the establishment Thursday because of a recent experience he had with the owner that he believes was racially motivated.

Pitts had been to Towson Wines and Spirits at 6 W. Pennsylvania Ave. before. Pitts described owner and clerk Douglas Marcus as dismissive but said he just assumed the shop had bad customer service. But when Pitts returned to the liquor store near his work to purchase a snack on June 16, his exchange with Marcus escalated dramatically, he said.

During that visit, Pitts said he asked Marcus if mobile pay was an option for a $2.99 bag of pistachios. He said he initially chalked up Marcus’ unresponsiveness to the owner being an “ornery old man.”

After Pitts paid for his item, though, he said he expressed how rude and unprofessional he thought Marcus’ attitude had been when the clerk had held his hand out for payment but ignored Pitts otherwise.

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Pitts said he felt disrespected and wanted to say, “Brother, you don’t have to treat me this way,” in an attempt to “peacefully” resolve the matter. Pitts said that before he could get out the full sentence, he was cut off by Marcus, who allegedly said, “I am not your brother.”

Pitts said he immediately felt that Marcus’ disposition toward him was racially charged. Pitts, a communications associate at the Register of Wills for Baltimore County, walked out of Towson Wines and Spirits and went on Facebook Live to warn his followers to not shop at the store. As Pitts peeked back in the door to show the owner he was recording on his phone, Marcus immediately replied, “F--- you, n----r! Did you get that? Did you get that?”

Pitts said he noticed Marcus had a gun on his hip, so he turned around and headed to the parking lot. The Facebook Live stream cut off shortly after, and Pitts said Marcus came outside the store to demand payment, though Pitts said he already paid. The video of the interaction immediately circulated around social media.

Now, a protest on behalf of Pitts and his supporters will take place outside the liquor store on Thursday.

Pitts said he does not feel supported by other local Black activist groups, though, and thinks it is because he and Marcus did not get into a physical altercation. There “would have been the news coverage and Black people protesting if I would have handled it differently. I guarantee it, because there would have been more to witness and more to interpret,” Pitts said.

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“At the end of the day, he [Marcus] needs to be uncomfortable. He needs to be scared to do this [to other customers]. Our goal isn’t make him lose his business. But if this pushes him out of business, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it because this was unacceptable,” Pitts said.

Marcus did not return multiple requests for comment from The Baltimore Banner. A Facebook page attributed to him posted a comment on one of Pitts’ statuses three days after the incident.

“I was wrong. I was,” he wrote. “This is something between you and me. I know and you know how it started. Everybody knows how it ended. I’m sorry. I am. I’m embarrassed I hurt another and I am ashamed. You cannot unring the bell. People threatening my people isn’t right. This is my problem. I’m responsible and I’m sorry. If you wish to talk, feel free. If not, I understand. I’m not this guy. I’d like to show you or at least apologize in person.”

Pitts said that he doesn’t believe Marcus’ “half-baked” apology was sincere and that the liquor store owner is beginning to feel the effects of his actions. The store received more than 100 one-star reviews on Yelp within the first two days of Pitts posting the video, he said.

“This is not what I need in my life. But now that I am in this predicament, there’s a responsibility to play this the right way,” Pitts said. ”This man does not mean that apology. He’s, again, feeling the financial angst and the pressure is working. Now we’re going to bring it to his doorstep [with this protest].”

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Supporters of the protest intend to make patrons of neighboring stores near the liquor store “dutifully aware” of the type of neighbor they think Marcus is, Pitts said.

“The other businesses and his personal intimate community need to make him uncomfortable, as well. Hold him accountable because y’all know who this man is. And who this man has always been,” Pitts said.

In 2015, Marcus fatally shot an alleged robber who died outside his store, according to The Sun. He was not charged for the incident.

Pitts said his experience with Marcus showed “outright disrespect. It was just so … egregious and when I called him out on it, his response told me he was racist. The video just showed it in real-time,” Pitts said.

penelope.blackwell@thebaltimorebanner.com

Penelope Blackwell is a Breaking News/Accountability reporter with The Banner. Previously, she covered local government in Durham, NC, for The News & Observer. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Morgan State University and her master’s in journalism from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. 

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