Star­bucks faces back­lash over ar­rest of black men

Star­bucks is fac­ing pres­sure fol­low­ing the ar­rest of two black men at one of its lo­ca­tions in Philadel­phia and while CEO John­son apol­o­gized, it has not stopped pro­test­ers from gath­er­ing out­side the store where the ar­rests oc­curred

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Business -

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.

John­son’s state­ment didn’t ad­dress ex­actly what led to the po­lice call, but a Star­bucks spokes­woman said the store where the ar­rests oc­curred has a pol­icy that re­strooms are for pay­ing cus­tomers only. In the video, no Star­bucks items are vis­i­ble in front of ei­ther of the men. Robert Pas- sikoff, 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.

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.

Protestor Jack Willis, 26, demon­strates out­side a Star­bucks on April 15, Philadel­phia, Penn­syl­va­nia.

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