Protesters gather outside a Starbucks in Philadelphia, Sunday, April 15, 2018, where two black men were arrested Thursday after Starbucks employees called police to say the men were trespassing. The arrest prompted accusations of racism on social media. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson posted a lengthy statement Saturday night, calling the situation "disheartening" and that it led to a "reprehensible" outcome. (AP Photo/Ron Todt)
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Starbucks CEO apologizes to 2 black men arrested

16 Comments
By RON TODT and JAY REEVES

Starbucks sells itself as a community gathering spot as much as a coffeehouse, a welcoming place with comfortable chairs for lingering, trendy music and Wi-Fi. That's one reason the arrest of two black men who were sitting in a Starbucks struck a nerve for so many: They were doing exactly what people do at most any of the chain's 28,000 stores worldwide.

The CEO of Starbucks Co., Kevin Johnson, called the arrests a "reprehensible outcome" and said he wants to personally apologize to the men, saying the company "stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling." But that didn't stop protesters from gathering Sunday outside the store in downtown Philadelphia where the arrests occurred.

As people ordered coffee inside, the Rev. Jeffrey Jordan led a crowd of a couple 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 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."

In Washington, D.C., Gregory Wilkins usually visits one of three neighborhood Starbucks for about 45 minutes before work to read the paper with his coffee or smoke a cigarette at the outside tables. Wilkins, who is black, said he'd consider going elsewhere if something like the incident in Philadelphia occurred again.

"If nothing is done about what happened, then yeah," Wilkins, 56, said as he went into a Starbucks.

The arrests, which occurred Thursday, were captured on video that quickly gained traction on social media.

Video shows several police talking quietly with two black men seated at a table. After a few minutes, officers handcuff the men and lead them outside as other customers say they weren't doing anything wrong; Philadelphia-area media reported the two had been waiting for a friend.

Officers went to the store after Starbucks employees called 911 to report the men were trespassing, said Police Commissioner Richard Ross. He said officers were told the men had come in and asked to use the restroom but were denied because they hadn't bought anything. He said they then refused to leave.

Robert Passikoff, the president of a New York-based consulting firm that researches brand loyalty, said companies like Starbucks are in a tough spot as they attempt to operate both as both community centers and places where people are expected to make a purchase.

"Companies have gone out of their way to establish the kind of emotional bonds and product delivery that they think is going to build engagement and loyalty and, ultimately, profits," said Passikoff, of Brand Keys Inc. "But today the consumer decides what is right. They have become magnets for social experiences, in the broad sense of 'social,' but not in the sense that 'Oh, I need to buy something.'"

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.

"Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did," said his statement. Johnson said videos of the arrest were "very hard to watch," and the company was investigating.

Johnson said the company would further train workers on when to call police and host a company-wide meeting to "underscore our long-standing commitment to treating one another with respect and dignity."

Police haven't released the names of the men who were arrested. 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 further comment, citing a police investigation.

At the protest, Wendy Mial vowed to never enter another Starbucks. Mial, 53, said she was "devastated" by the arrests and urged the small crowd not to the "choose the wrong enemy."

"The enemy, in some ways, is ourselves," she said. "Look how few people are here today. Who's not outraged about this?"

© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

16 Comments
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Maybe the Starbucks employee who phoned the police was just doing what Trump was doing when he refused to rent to black people.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

That the victims of this situation conducted themselves as gentlemen throughout this incident gives clarity to the state of racial relations in America, and leaves us white people feeling much sorrow and shame.

14yr old BLACK boy shot at....for asking for directions

2 BLACK men arrested....for simply waiting in a community hub

And the Conservatives / Republicans claim Racism is a thing of the past........

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Hold on a moment!

The two men came into the shop and wished to use the facilities without buying anything?

If everybody did that then businesses would not exist!

I can’t see racism being a factor here.....

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

and the very first comment is about Trump 4 decades ago when he obviously has nothing to do with this happening.

The virtue signaling liberal run Starbucks been caught in racism. They have to own they instead of always pointing the finger to others.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested

So why did s/he call the police? What did s/he think would happen if the cops were called on two Black men in the US?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

As far as I’ve read this was not Starbucks policy so I don’t know how you can blame it on Starbucks as a whole. Seems it was one manager. Pretty disgusting of her.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I've sat in Starbucks for hours, stopped in to use the bathroom, use the WiFi, charge my phone, or get a free cup of water on a hot day. Every day I see other people doing the same thing. I've seen people bring food from other restaurants to Starbucks. I've seen people sitting and taking up entire tables with their laptops, books, and file folders - and Starbucks employees refuse to ask them to move over and make space for paying customers to sit. In Starbucks that have codes on the bathroom locks, people just wait for the person ahead of them in line to leave the door open, and no one says a thing.

On any given day in any Starbucks in America, there are people sitting around not buying anything. This manager made a choice to call 911 - an emergency number - and take up precious police resources because she perceived two black men sitting and doing nothing as a threat. And the Philadelphia police didn't even look for evidence of a crime - despite all the witnesses saying nothing had happened, they arrested the men anyway. Starbucks - and the Philadelphia Police Department need to do some serious anti-bias training. And those of us who have the privilege to walk around this country without being suspected as criminals need to stay vigilant and speak up for the people whose voices aren't going to be heard.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Are we getting the full story here? I find it very hard to believe the police weren't called if these 2 just asked to use the bathroom. The part about refusing to leave sort of opens up the incident quite a bit.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I find it very hard to believe the police weren't called if these 2 just asked to use the bathroom. The part about refusing to leave sort of opens up the incident quite a bit.

A naive / ignorant statement. That's all it takes - to be a person of colour existing and taking up space.

Why should they have left? They were waiting for someone, which I believe is not a crime, not yet, in the US. They were asked to leave because the staffer thought they must be criminals, which is racist of her. Quite right they stayed.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Starbucks is teaching how to discriminate in year 2018. Cops have been shooting unarmed black children.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If cops escorted outside, different. These two men were arrested.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I’ve never gone into a restaurant, asking if I could use the bathroom and then sat in the restaurant or coffee shop without ordering anything-that would be atrocious behaviour!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Wow..this is all over the news. Just watched the video and the arresting Police officers are Black. Is this really a "racial thing"? Or is it being drummed up to being one? The cops did try to get them to leave and they would have been escorted out, had they not resisted. So how does an incident of two black men refusing to comply with instructions from black police officers and ending up being arrested become a "racial incident"?

Racism needs to be stamped out for sure, but there are enough real incidents to resolve before creating fake ones. Anyone remember Tawana Brawley?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@ Ossan, It was racism on the part of the manager of the store who called the police in the first place. According to the full account, the two men were waiting for another person. At some point one of them asked to use the restroom, and were told it was only available for paying customers. So they continued to wait for their acquaintance who said to meet him there. The manager working told them to leave if they weren't going to order something or they'd call the police. They did tell the manager we're waiting for someone again, the manager called the police, and once the police showed up and started arresting the two men the person they were waiting for showed up and asked them why the two men were being arrested.

I'm a black male and I've been in my local Starbucks multiple times, sometimes I ordered something, sometimes I didn't. They never came up to me and asked to buy something or leave. I could use the restroom without any problems It is a community hub. I've waited for people there, and people waited for me there as well.

So yes this is racism, not of the entirety of Starbucks, but all because that one foolish manager was prejudiced. And now the corporation is being blamed. I think they'll probably need to terminate someone for this.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Crazy Joe, yeah the US has always suffered from "subtle racism". Some are still into blatant racism, and others just think in a prejudiced way without really noticing that they're being racist by judging someone by who they look or their ethnicity. The news about the 14 year old being shot at for trying to get help finding directions to his school was a good representation of how our society is still having serious issues.

@Kurisupisu, obviously things work differently here than what you're used to. It's pretty normal in a coffee shop in the US. Some might be more stringent than others though, but apparently it wasn't the case with that Starbucks as other individuals were doing the same thing those two men were doing. The manager made presumptions because of their ethnicity.

Whose to say they weren't going to order something after the person they wanted to meet showed up?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

“My responsibility is to look not only to that individual but look more broadly at the circumstances that set that up just to ensure that never happens again,” ( Kevin Johnson, Starbucks CEO)

I give Mr. Johnson a thumbs up for personally jumping in to try and make things right. This is in stark contrast to his predecessor's (Howard Shultz) reaction to a boycott predicated by his anti conservative, anti Christian, anti Trump campaign of a few years ago. Shultz' response to the boycott was to state that Starbucks didn't need those kind of customers and everything would be just fine. After a 24 percent loss of brand value, directly attributed to the boycott by many financial experts, Shultz was replaced by Johnson.

Johnson has a long row to hoe in light of the culture of elitist ideological superiority which Shultz promoted and reinforced within the Starbucks organization. Some people just feel better about themselves when they can feel better than someone else. Maybe the manager in this case just felt that her Starbucks didn't need those kind of customers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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