A video of two black men being arrested inside a Center City Starbucks for allegedly sitting in the cafe without buying anything has gotten millions of views on social media and sparked national outrage over claims of alleged racial profiling. A Sunday afternoon protest was planned outside the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce streets where the two black men were arrested on April 12, while another protest was planned for Monday morning.
“I am heartbroken to see Philadelphia in the headlines for an incident that – at least based on what we know at this point – appears to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement, also announcing that he has referred the matter to the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations for an investigation of the company’s practices and whether mandatory “implicit bias training” is needed by their staff. “Starbucks has issued an apology, but that is not enough.”
Starbucks staff reportedly called police around 4:40 p.m. of April 12 to remove two African-American males who were inside the cafe, had not purchased any items and refused requests to leave. After two officers responded, they requested backup and a supervisor. Fellow patrons recorded the group of some six police officers handcuffing and escorting out the two men, who are not seen resisting or making any comments.
@Starbucks 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. pic.twitter.com/0U4Pzs55Ci
— Melissa DePino (@missydepino) April 12, 2018
At the end of the video, a white man identified as real estate investor Alan Yaffe can be seen telling police he was meeting the two men and calling their arrest “ridiculous.” The two men were reportedly detained for some eight hours before being released without charges being filed.
Philly activist and journalist Flood the Drummer reported that a manager at the Starbucks told him after the incident that Center City Starbucks prohibit excessive loitering.
“These officers did absolutely nothing wrong,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said in a Facebook video posted after the arrest went viral, saying the two men declined three “polite” requests to leave before they were arrested for trespassing. “They followed policy, they did what they were supposed to do, they were professional in all their dealings with these gentlemen, and instead, they got the opposite back.”
Ross said police had an “obligation” to arrest the pair after receiving the 911 call.
City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who represents the 2nd District in which the Starbucks is located, said the managers at the Starbucks should be replaced.
“These young men should not have received different treatment from other guests on-site and should not have been arrested in the first place,” Johnson said in a statement. “I would hope Starbucks finds this incident violates its internal policies and replaces management at this location. Racial profiling should not be tolerated in 2018.”
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson posted a lengthy apology for the incident, as well, and said he is traveling to Philadelphia to address the situation.
“I hope to meet personally with the two men who were arrested to offer a face-to-face apology,” Johnson said. “We have immediately begun a thorough investigation of our practices.”
As of Sunday, about 150 people RSVPed on Facebook to a planned “Shut Down Starbucks” rally on Monday morning organized by the Philadelphia Coalition for REAL Justice.
Below, see a longer video of the incident.