Yema Khalif and his wife Hawi Awash were awarded $150,000 after being racially profiled by police nearly two years ago. The couple was accosted by officers while working inside their own store in Tiburon, California, and now with the settlement money, they are encouraging the town to make substantial changes that will make the Marin County community a more inclusive place for everyone.
“We are not begging, we are demanding to be treated with love, with dignity, and with respect,” Khalif said on Tuesday at a press conference in Tiburon. “This isn’t about just me and Yema,” Awash added. “It’s about every single Black and Brown person that comes into the Tiburon community, that comes into the Belvedere community.”
In late August 2020, the couple was working late at night in their clothing store, Yema, when Tiburon police approached the store and demanded the couple prove they were the owners. The situation diffused only after a white neighbor yelled out to the police that it was, indeed, their store.
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The interaction, captured on body camera and cell phone video, instantly went viral and led the Tiburon police chief and one of the police officers to resign.
As part of the settlement, the town of Tiburon has agreed to create a community advisory board. Members will be able to help vet candidates for the local police department.
Khalif and Awash will be part of that board.
The Tiburon Police Department has also agreed to increase the frequency of racial bias training. Joined by Paul Austin, the Marin City activist who alleges he and his wife were lowballed half a million dollars during their home appraisal process because they’re Black, the quartet said that incidents like this happen to them more often than people realize.
“Marin County, there’s so much more work we can do in order to make this place a true melting pot,” Austin said.
Since Khalif and Awash’s interaction with the police, they have received threatening messages. One person even questioned why they use Black mannequins and have recently installed security cameras outside of their store.
“We are doing something that is substantial that will help Tiburon and that will hopefully be an example for the rest of the U.S.” Awash said.
Awash said they plan to donate a portion of their settlement money to a charity that helps educate orphans in Kenya and Ethiopia.