Star­bucks takes heat; CEO vows remedial ac­tion

Ar­rests of black men lead to re­train­ing plan

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - MONEY - By Kris­ten De Groot and Joseph Pisani As­so­ci­ated Press

PHILADEL­PHIA — Star­bucks wants to add train­ing for store man­agers on “un­con­scious bias,” CEO Kevin John­son said Mon­day, as ac­tivists held more protests at a Philadel­phia store where two black men were ar­rested when em­ploy­ees said they were tres­pass­ing.

John­son, who has called the ar­rests “rep­re­hen­si­ble,” ar­rived in Philadel­phia this week­end af­ter video of the ar­rests gained trac­tion on­line. He said he hopes to meet with the two men in the next cou­ple of days and apol­o­gize to them face-to-face.

“I’d like to have a di­a­logue with them and the op­por­tu­nity to lis­ten to them with com­pas­sion and em­pa­thy through the ex­pe­ri­ence they went through,” said John­son, who has been CEO about a year. A lawyer for the two men who were ar­rested didn’t im­me­di­ately re­turn a call for com­ment.

The in­ci­dent is a ma­jor blow to Star­bucks’ im­age, since the com­pany has pro­moted its cof­fee shops as neigh­bor­hood hang­outs where any­one is wel­come. Af­ter a video of the ar­rests spread on­line, the hash­tag #Boy­cottS­tar­bucks trended on Twit­ter.

And on Mon­day, about two dozen pro­test­ers took over the Philadel­phia shop, chant­ing slo­gans like, “A whole lot of racism, a whole lot of crap, Star­bucks cof­fee is anti-black.” A Star­bucks re­gional vice pres­i­dent who at­tempted to talk to pro­test­ers was shouted down.

“We don’t want this Star­bucks to make any money to­day. That’s our goal,” said Ab­dul-Aliy Muham­mad, one of the protest or­ga­niz­ers and co-founder of the Black and Brown Work­ers Col­lec­tive.

Over the week­end, de­mon­stra­tors called for the fir­ing of the em­ployee who con­tacted po­lice, who ar­rested the men Thurs­day.

Of­fi­cials have said po­lice of­fi­cers were told the men had asked to use the store’s re­stroom but were de­nied be­cause they hadn’t bought

any­thing and they re­fused to leave.

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. A white man iden­ti­fied as real estate de­vel­oper An­drew Yaffe ar­rives and tells the of­fi­cers the two men were wait­ing for him. An of­fi­cer says the men were not com­ply­ing and were be­ing ar­rested for tres­pass­ing.

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

A woman can be heard in the video say­ing “they didn’t do any­thing, I saw the en­tire thing.”

Po­lice haven’t re­leased the names of the men, who were later re­leased af­ter the district at­tor­ney’s of­fice said there was lack of ev­i­dence that a crime had been com­mit­ted.

John­son said the com­pany will en­sure that em­ployee guide­lines on when the po­lice should be called will be clar­i­fied.

Asked if the in­ci­dent was a case of racism, John­son re­sponded: “Star­bucks was built around the con­cept of a ‘third place’ where we cre­ate a warm and wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment for all cus­tomers. What I do know is that did not hap­pen in this in­stance. And that is what we’re fo­cused on.”


Ac­tivist Asa Khalif, left, protests in­side the Star­bucks where two black men were ar­rested.

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