Asian Retailer Group Meets With Ga. AG

Racism, driveoffs biggest concerns

NORCROSS, Ga. -- Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker urged members of the new Asian American Convenience Stores Association to take concerns about racial profiling and gas station driveoffs to the authorities who can help them most, reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Create the kind of dialogue we have had here tonight, Baker told the more than 150 people gathered at the AACSA's first sponsored event. The 200-member group, which opened a headquarters last week in Decatur, Ga., is largely Indian-American now but hopes to attract members of [image-nocss] other Asian ethnic groups.

Store owners in North Georgia joined the association weeks after federal agents arrested 49 people44 of them Indian and Indian-Americanfor selling materials used to make methamphetamine in June. Many in the region's Indian community believed that they were unfairly targeted, said the report, and they said the episode has exposed language and cultural barriers separating the merchants and authorities.

Officials in the U.S. Attorney's Office said those arrested knew very well that they were selling cold medicine, camping fuel and antifreeze to people who had declared their intent to make meth, the report added.

Upendra Patel, the local association's president, urged members to educate themselves about Georgia's laws and customs. But he also told them to stand up together if they believe their rights are being trampled. If we feel anyone is breeching our rights, we will rise up, Patel said, according to the newspaper.

Baker implored the c-store owners to meet with the officials in the U.S. Attorney's Office if they believe they are being racially profiled. And when asked about the increasing number of gas station customers who fuel up without paying, Baker pointed the merchants toward their local police departments and district attorneys. The attorney general said he would do his part, the report concluded.