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Witnesses react after racial incident at Macomb business - WGEM

Author: WGEM

Source: https://www.wgem.com/2023/10/30/witnesses-react-after-racial-incident-macomb-business/

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MACOMB (WGEM) - A Macomb business owner is defending herself after coming under fire for a video that surfaced, catching her saying a racial slur toward several persons of color on Thursday, Oct.26.Spirit in the Sky Costumes owner Celene Cross declined an on-camera interview, but said she has never called anyone the n-word.Witnesses, including one of her employees, have said otherwise.Elisabeth Peterson was working that afternoon, where she said the store was full of customers.She said one group of five black girls, all Western Illinois University students, were there trying on costumes in preparation for a Halloween party.There, Cross confirms that she stood watch next a set of dressing rooms, and that’s when the incident began.One of the students, Princess McCullough, said her friend began to feel uncomfortable after the store owner was near the dressing rooms.Cross claims the girls were disrespectful, but McCullough said her friend mentioned to Cross that she was called a racial slur in the store the day prior.“The friend said ‘I’m disrespectful because you called me the n-word,” McCullough said.Peterson said the conversation escalated to a loud argument after one of the students asked Cross if her store was similar to a thrift store. From there, Peterson said Cross began to tell the girls to get out of her store.“Everyone just didn’t know what to do because we were in shock,” Peterson said.From there, one of the students began to film the conflict, which can be viewed below.Cross said thefts have been a problem at her store and that’s why she was keeping a close watch on the dressing rooms.Once the five girls left, one of them called the police.Upon arrival, McCullough said one policeman went inside and two others stayed outside to talk to her and her friends.While no arrests were made, Cross was given a city ordinance violation for pushing a police officer, and the officer tried to contain her.“He held her hands behind her back, and that was all he did, just held her hands behind her back and kind of pushed her away from him, not aggressively,” Peterson said.Mayor Michael Inman was contacted by the local National Association for the Advancement Colored People (NAACP) chapter president, Byron Oden-Shabazz, about what happened.Inman saw the video, and the next day, reached out to Western Illinois University administration and the students that were involved.He called the video “appalling.”“That’s one thing that I wanted to assure to these students when I reached out to them that this is absolutely not our business community,” Inman said.Inman said because of the 1st Amendment, and businesses not being registered with the city, they couldn’t take any legal action.However, he said if Cross had a liquor license or another form of city government oversight, the steps to get that suspended would have been taken.From here, Inman said it’s his goal to amend relations with those who were involved in Thursday’s incident, along with the entire WIU community.“The tarnish to our reputation is almost immeasurable when incidents like that occur,” Inman said.Since the incident, Cross said she’s received death threats, but doesn’t believe she said anything wrong.On Friday, WIU President Guiyou Huang released a statement to the campus community that read in part:“This is not a time to be silent.We must publicly denounce this clear act of racism toward our students. Racist acts, no matter how subtle or overt, cannot be ignored nor tolerated.”A protest march is scheduled for Monday, Oct.30, beginning at 5 p.m.at the university’s Multicultural Center.Poster making is taking place from 11 a.m.to 3:30 p.m. that same day at the MCC.Inman said he has a meeting with the WIU Student Government Association on Monday, Nov.6.In the end, Cross said she stands by what she said, but those around her call it racist.“This specific experience has been extremely traumatic, like it made me feel just sick to my stomach, especially not being able to say anything in that moment,” Peterson said.Copyright 2023 WGEM.All rights reserved.

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