Protesters gathered at a Philadelphia Starbucks where the men were arrested after they reportedly refused to buy coffee or leave the store
Protesters targeted a Philadelphia Starbucks on Monday after two black men were arrested last week when a store employee called police to say the men were trespassing.
The protests followed the release of a video that showed the two men being arrested after a store manager called the police because they were sitting in the store without placing an order. The two said they were waiting for a friend who arrived just as they were taken away in handcuffs.
Witnesses said the two were refused access to the bathroom because they had not made a purchase but that another customer had just used the bathroom without buying anything. Another said she had been there for hours without making a purchase.
“We don’t want this Starbucks to make any money today. That’s our goal,” said Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, one of the protest’s organizers and co-founder of the Black and Brown Workers Collective, as protesters moved to the front counter shortly after 7am and chanted “Starbucks coffee is anti-black” and “We are gonna shut you down”.
The arrests have caused a PR crisis for Starbucks. Kevin Johnson, Starbucks’ CEO, said he was hoping to meet the mayor, police and hopefully the men who were arrested in an interview on Monday on ABC’s Good Morning America. Johnson called the arrests “reprehensible”.
“I’d like to have a dialogue with them so that I can ensure that we have opportunity to really understand the situation and show some compassion and empathy for the experience they went through,” he said.
The protesters gathered outside the store in the pouring rain, while inside it looked like business as usual. However, most people drinking coffee at the tables were regional leaders for the company’s corporate side.
Just before 7.30am, the protesters moved inside and stood in front of the counter, some holding banners reading “End Stop and Frisk”, chanting slogans such as: “A whole lot of racism, a whole lot of crap, Starbucks coffee is anti-black.”
Speeches decried police brutality and gentrification. Starbucks regional vice-president Camille Hymes attempted to talk to the protesters, but was shouted down.
Over the weekend, demonstrators called for the firing of the employee who had contacted police. Starbucks has removed the manager from the store and said told The Philadelphia Inquirer the separation was “mutual”.
Officials have said police officers were told the men had asked to use the store’s restroom but were denied because they had not bought anything and they refused to leave.
Police have not released the names of the men who were arrested and later released after the district attorney’s office said there was lack of evidence that a crime had been committed.
Over the weekend, the mayor of Philadelphia ordered a city commission to review policies at Starbucks after the arrests prompted social media users to accuse the company of racial discrimination.
Protesters gathered outside the branch in downtown Philadelphia on Sunday, with a local preacher leading several dozen in chants of “I am somebody, and I demand equality now”.
“It is a shame that [in] the year 2018 we’re still putting up with this mess,” said the Rev Jeffrey Jordan. “This country was built on the backs of black and brown people and now Starbucks is going to treat us like we’re second class.”
The arrests on Thursday were captured on video and circulated widely on social media.
Melissa DePino captured the incident on video and posted it on Twitter. She wrote: “The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing.”
The police commissioner, Richard Ross, said officers went to the coffee shop after Starbucks employee reported the men were trespassing. Officers were told the men had entered and asked to use the toilet, but were refused because they had not bought anything. They then refused to leave. Ross, who is black, insisted that his officers “did absolutely nothing wrong”.
Police have not released the names of the men. A spokesman for the district attorney’s office said the two were released “because of lack of evidence” that a crime had been committed, but declined to comment further, citing a police investigation.
Johnson said the company’s practices and training led to a “bad outcome”, and the reason for the call that brought police into the shop was incorrect.
He said the company would further train workers on when to call police and host a company-wide meeting to “underscore our longstanding commitment to treating one another with respect and dignity”.
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