On Saturday afternoon, Keon Harold, a prominent jazz musician, and his 14-year-old son walk into the lobby of the Arlo Hotel, the boutique hotel in Soho where they were staying, when they encountered a woman they had never seen before.
The woman falsely accused the teenager of taking her cell phone and demanded that it be returned. Tensions mount, as the woman insists that the teen holds the phone, screams and eventually confronts him and tries to look into his pockets before they are separated, Mr. Harold said.
Harold, who is black, captured parts of the fight in a mobile phone video that was widely shared on social media this weekend as another example of false accusations against blacks. And drew comparisons to The May Incident When a white woman called 911 to falsely claim that a black bird sighter in Central Park was threatening her life.
Mr. Harold said in an interview on Sunday that the SoHo accident left him « shocked ».
He said he believes that he and his son, Keon Harold Jr., may have been racially profiled, although he said he does not know the gender of the woman.
“I wonder what would happen if it were different, if it was a black woman and there was a white guy of 14 years,” he said.
In Mr. Harold’s video, the hotelier can be seen introducing himself and asking the son to produce a cell phone, in an apparent attempt to verify the woman’s claim. Mr. Harold said the director had no reason to believe the woman.
« They assumed he was guilty, » said Mr. Harold. « The administration didn’t even ask her why she thought he had the phone. »
The woman was not publicly identified. Both the police and the hotel refused to give the name, and Mr. Harold said he did not know who she was or how to contact her.
Mr. Harold said she was a former guest at the hotel earlier in the week, and the hotel told him so.
The hotel also told Mr. Harold that the Uber driver found her phone later in the day and picked it up from the hotel, Mr. Harold said.
The hotel did not respond to questions about the woman on Sunday. Arlo, which has two hotels in the city, advertises its SoHo location as a modern destination with a rooftop bar and views of the Hudson River. The hotel says on its website that the heated cabins in its patio can take guests « out into the countryside without leaving town ».
In a statement, the hotel apologized to Mr. Harold and his son. While the hotel said the manager called the police to report the incident and the hotel’s security intervened, « more could have been done to calm the conflict. »
« We are extremely disappointed by the recent incident of accusation, prejudice and assault on an innocent guest at the Arlo Hotel, » the hotel said, adding that it was committed to « ensuring » that this did not happen again in any of our hotels. «
Police officials confirmed that they had received a report of an accident at the hotel on Saturday and said they were investigating.
The episode at the hotel came on the heels of several recent cases in which racist treatment of blacks was videotaped and widely publicized. Including the Central Park incident in MayWhich occurred after a black bird watcher asked a white woman to tie her dog.
Mr. Harold, from Ferguson, Missouri, moved to New York City and began playing jazz professionally at the age of 19. He has performed with notable artists such as Common, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Rihanna, and appeared in a jazz autobiographical soundtrack on Miles Davis, « Miles Ahead. » He won a Grammy Award In 2017.
Mr. Harold said he has been staying at the Arlo Hotel since mid-December. He lives in Long Island City, Queens, but said the change in place helped spur his creativity. He said he and his son were planning to have brunch when they met the woman at the hotel on Saturday.
He said the woman had scratched him as he struggled to keep her away from his son during the quarrel. He said he worried what would have happened had he not been there to protect his son.
He said, « I’ve seen people get hurt or even killed for less. »
Mr. Harold said that after the woman interacted with his son, he separated the two, but the woman then disappeared. He said never heard of it.
He said, « She certainly owes my son an apology. » « I don’t expect that, and if it does, then that’s cool. If it doesn’t, then it’s much bigger than that. It’s an account of what it doesn’t have to happen in everyday life in America, that’s what it is. »
He said he was moving from the hotel.