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Store Owners Defend ‘Hats Off’ Policy Amid ‘Pro-Hoodie’ Movement

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A Southland campaign aimed at protecting business owners from potential robbery suspects may come under increased scrutiny in the face of a national wave of hooded rallies in the wake of the shooting death of a Florida teen.

KNX 1070’s Margaret Carrero reports at least one San Fernando Valley businessman is giving “Hats Off” to the LAPD-backed initiative.

Pizza shop owner Alex Sepanossian said the signs asking patrons to remove any hoodies, hats, or other headgear are merely in response to a robbery at his store last year.

“They came in the through the back door and did a hold-up, but after that, we put [the signs up] a few months later, it’s been OK ever since,” said Sepanossian.

He said most patrons voluntarily comply with the policy and that no one has filed a complaint against him or the store.

The symbol of the hooded sweatshirt has gained national recognition after the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager whose shooting by a neighborhood watch captain has sparked “pro-hoodie” rallies across Southern California and much of the nation.

Members of the California legislature were the latest politicians to join the movement, wearing hooded sweatshirts on the floor of each chamber Thursday and adjourned the day’s session in memory of the 17-year-old.

On Wednesday, Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois was reprimanded for wearing a hoodie on the House floor. Earlier this week, New York state senators also wore hoodies in their chamber.

But despite the raw emotion surrounding Martin’s death, LAPD Lt. Alan Hamilton insisted the “Hats Off” campaign is not meant to suggest that all people who wear hooded shirts are automatically criminals.

“As a matter of fact, when I run I wear a hoodie,” said Hamilton. “The whole goal behind that campaign is to allow yourself to be identified.”

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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