Starbucks CEO Apologizes For Arrest Of 2 Black Men In Philly Store

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is in Philadelphia and expected to meet face-to-face today with two African American men who were handcuffed and arrested at a Starbucks Thursday afternoon while waiting to meet someone. Reportedly, a manager asked them to leave because they had not purchased anything and they asked “why?”. 

video of the incident posted to Twitter by Melissa DePino has drawn nearly 10 million views as of this morning. “What did they do?” a man repeatedly asks a cop on the scene. “They didn’t do anything …,” a woman responds.

“Protesters Sunday demanded the firing of the store manager who had called police and every Philadelphia police officer who participated in the arrest. About 75 people and at least two dozen uniformed officers attended the noon protest, organized by Black Lives Matter activist Asa Khalif,” Stephanie Farr and Andrew Seidman report for the Philadelphia Inquirer. 



“The demonstration began around noon outside the City Center Starbucks, with protesters carrying megaphones and signs that read ‘Too Little Too Latte,’ and ‘#Enough/Shame On Your Starbucks.’ Some social media users have begun using the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks in posts about the arrest,” NPR’s Shannon Van Sant writes.

More protests are planned for today at the store, which is at 18th and Spruce streets.

“The video shot by customers is very hard to watch and the actions in it are not representative of our Starbucks Mission and Values,” CEO Johnson says in a letter to “partners and customers” posted to the company website Saturday night. “Creating an environment that is both safe and welcoming for everyone is paramount for every store. Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome — the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong.  Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.” 

The men were released without charges being filed but they were fingerprinted and photographed, their attorney Lauren Wimmer told The Washington Post on Saturday. “Her clients, who declined to be identified, were released eight hours later because the district attorney found no evidence of a crime, she said, adding the Starbucks manager was white,” the Post's Alex Horton reports.

In a video posted on the department’s Facebook page, “Philadelphia police commissioner Richard Ross said that Starbucks employees told the police the men were trespassing because they refused to leave after they were denied use of the restroom because they hadn’t bought anything. Mr. Ross, who is black, defended the arrests of the men who were later released, and said his officers did nothing wrong,” Annie Gasparro and Tawnell D. Hobbs write for the Wall Street Journal

Starbuck's Johnson also intends to meet with Ross, Mayor Jim Kenney, and other community leaders Monday. In a video posted yesterday, Johnson assumes personal responsibility for the incident and says the store manager will not be fired for following the “policy, practice and training that led to the outcome. 

“I will fix this,” he states.

“What happened to those two men was racist, and frankly I’m sick of it. Apologies aren’t enough. Starbucks needs to make this right and do it quickly. It can begin by firing the employee who called the police on the two black men,” Inquirer columnist Jenice Armstrong writes at the end of a column that points out that the men were doing nothing more or less than people do in Starbucks all the time.

“I was shocked. Partly because it didn’t make sense why that had to happen. But also because I know if they were two white guys, I don’t think the same situation would have unfolded,” Kant Khatri, who was in the store when the incident took place, tells Armstrong in a Facebook Messenger text.

Indeed, “the store is different, but the complaints have a familiar ring: black shoppers recount instances where managers call security — or the police — in situations white shoppers say they rarely face,” Mike Snider writes for USA Today.

“Many commenters on Twitter said Thursday's incident was reminiscent of the Sixties' lunch counter sit-ins that challenged Jim Crow laws, which were prohibited with passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 'This is  a Jim Crow outrage,’ tweeted art instructor Rita Telaak,” Snider continues.

“We will learn from this and be better,” Johnson avers at the end of his letter.

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