The hashtag #BoycottStarbucks was trending this weekend on Twitter and protesters gathered in front of a Philadelphia Starbucks after a video showed two black men being arrested in the coffee shop, and witnesses said the men had not done anything wrong.
Video of the incident showed two black men being taken away in handcuffs by multiple police officers, while a white man confronting the officers said it was “ridiculous” and asked what they did wrong.
“They didn’t do anything wrong," a woman in the background said. "I saw the whole thing.”
@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
According to Buzzfeed, the white man questioning police officers in the video was Andrew Yaffe, who runs a real estate firm and was meeting with the two men to discuss business. Lauren A. Wimmer, the attorney for the pair, said her clients had not ordered as soon as they got to the Starbucks because they were waiting for Yaffe. While they were waiting, however, a Starbucks manager apparently asked them to leave.
Wimmer said her clients told the manager that they were just waiting for someone, and according to People, the manager called 911 to report the men for trespassing.
Yaffe allegedly arrived at the Starbucks just as the men he was meeting were being arrested for “defiant trespassing,” according to police.
Wimmer posted on Twitter that the men were "blatantly discriminated against based on their race."
According to NBC Philadelphia, the men were handcuffed and removed from the Starbucks at around 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, and were released around 2 a.m. the next morning, after the district attorney did not approve the charges.
Witnesses reported that the men had not done anything.
"The officers said the manager asked them to leave and that if they did not leave the cafe, they would be trespassing," witness Michelle Saahene told NBC Philadelphia. "The two young men politely asked why they were being asked to leave and were not given a reason other than that they hadn’t bought something."
Saahene said the two men reiterated that they hadn’t done anything wrong and offered to call the friend they were waiting for to prove their story. Saahene said that the two were polite and never got angry or raised their voices.
"They actually put them in handcuffs because they didn’t buy a f--- latte," Saahene said.
Starbucks posted an apology to Twitter on Saturday afternoon.
“We apologize to the two individuals and our customers and are disappointed this led to an arrest,” Starbucks said. “We take these matters seriously and clearly have more work to do when it comes to how we handle incidents in our stores. We are reviewing our policies and will continue to engage with the community and the police department to try to ensure these types of situations never happen in any of our stores.”
Philadelphia police commissioner Richard Ross also posted a reaction on Saturday. In a Facebook video, Ross defended the officers and denied that the arrests were racially motivated.
Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney also issued a statement about the incident.
“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,” Kenney’s statement read. “For many, Starbucks is not just a place to buy a cup of coffee, but a place to meet up with friends or family members, or to get some work done. Like all retail establishments in our city, Starbucks should be a place where everyone is treated the same, no matter the color of their skin.”
Kenney said he has asked the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to examine Starbucks’ policies and procedures, including whether the company has or needs implicit bias training in place for its employees.