Star­bucks un­der fire af­ter two black men ar­rested

Men were asked to leave af­ter not mak­ing a pur­chase.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Alex Horton Washington Post

The com­pany’s CEO apol­o­gized, call­ing the in­ci­dent at a Philadelphia store “rep­re­hen­si­ble.”

Star­bucks, which has touted its pro­gres­sive val­ues and its “so­cial im­pact” agenda, faces fierce crit­i­cism and calls for a boy­cott af­ter two black men were ar­rested at a Philadelphia store, spark­ing ac­cu­sa­tions of racial pro­fil­ing over what the com­pany’s chief ex­ec­u­tive called a “rep­re­hen­si­ble” in­ci­dent.

In a state­ment, CEO Kevin John­son of­fered “our deep­est apolo­gies” to the two men on Satur­day, who were taken out of the store in hand­cuffs by at least six officers. A store man­ager had asked the two men to leave af­ter they asked to use the bath­room but had not made any pur­chases, po­lice said. The men de­clined to leave and said they were wait­ing for a friend, their at­tor­ney later said. The man­ager then called 911 for as­sis­tance, the com­pany said.

The con­fronta­tion was cap­tured on a video viewed more than 8 mil­lion times on so­cial me­dia, fu­el­ing the back­lash, which drew re­sponses from Philadelphia’s mayor, the city’s po­lice com­mis­sioner and now the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the big­gest cof­fee house chain in the world.

John­son vowed an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and a re­view of its cus­tomer relations pro­to­cols, and he said he wanted to meet the two men for a face-to-face apol­ogy.

“Creati ng 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,” John­son said. “Our store man­ager never in­tended for these men to be ar­rested and this should never have es­ca­lated as it did.”

The two men were taken to a po­lice sta­tion, where they were fin­ger­printed and pho­tographed, their at­tor­ney, Lau­ren Wim­mer, said on Satur­day. Her clients, who de­clined to be iden- ti­fied, were re­leased eight hours later be­cause of lack of ev­i­dence of a crime, she said, adding that the Star- bucks man­ager was white.

The in­ci­dent is a dra­matic turn for a com­pany that has po­si­tioned it­self as a pro­gres­sive cor­po­rate leader and touts “diver­sity and in­clu- sion” — ef­forts that have also drawn its share of crit- icism. Last year the com­pany vowed to hire 10,000 refugees, draw­ing calls for a boy­cott, mostly from con­serva- tives who said they should fo­cus on na­tive-born Amer- icans and mil­i­tary vet­er­ans (though Star­bucks started an ini­tia­tive in 2013 to hire 10,000 vet­er­ans and mili- tary spouses).

Wim­mer said the man whom the two men were there to meet, An­drew Yaffe, runs a real es­tate de­vel­op­ment firm and said he wanted to meet the men to dis­cuss business in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties. In the video, he ar­rives to tell po­lice that the two men were wait­ing for him.

“Why would they be asked to leave?” Yaffe says. “Does any­body else think this is ridicu­lous?” he asks peo- ple nearby. “It’s ab­so­lute dis­crim­i­na­tion.”

Melissa DePino, who recorded the vi­ral video of the in­ci­dent, told Philadelphia magazine that the men did not es­ca­late the sit­u­a­tion. “These guys never raised their voices. They never did any­thing re­motely ag­gres­sive,” she said.

Cell­phone videos, in­clud- ing DePino’s, show the men sit­ting and calmly speak­ing with officers.

Mayor Jim Ken­ney, a Demo­crat, high­lighted the com­pany’s role in the in­ci­dent in a state­ment on Satur­day. He noted that the om­nipres- ent cof­fee shops are known for be­ing community hubs of peo­ple who do not nec- es­sar­ily buy any­thing, sug­gest­ing that the man­ager’s ac­tions may have been moti- vated by race.


Protesters gather out­side a Star­bucks in Philadelphia on Sun­day 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.

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