UPDATE [Monday April 16, 3pm EST]: TIME magazine reports that the manager of the Philadelphia location where the incident took place is no longer working at that location, thanks to a “mutual decision” for them to leave. There is no report indicating what happened to the manager in terms of relocation or firing.
This weekend, video surfaced on Twitter of several officers surrounding and arresting two black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks on Thursday because they hadn’t ordered anything.
@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 law enforcement, the men asked to use the restroom and were told no by an employee because they hadn’t purchased anything. They were asked to leave and did not, so the manager called the police. The men were waiting for a third member of their party—a white man named Andrew Yaffe—who arrives as the two are being arrested.
In the video, Yaffe can be heard asking, “What did [the police] get called for? Because there are two black guys sitting here meeting me?”
The men were arrested on suspicion of trespassing, but Starbucks didn’t press charges and the prosecutor’s office didn’t charge them because of “a lack of evidence that a crime was committed,” according to a spokesman. They were released around 1:30 a.m. Friday.
Protesters have been demonstrating at that Starbucks location in addition to calling for a Starbucks boycott.
The company tweeted an apology and statement on Twitter Saturday.
We apologize to the two individuals and our customers for what took place at our Philadelphia store on Thursday. pic.twitter.com/suUsytXHks
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) April 14, 2018
Chief Executive Kevin R. Johnson also released a statement, titled “Reprehensible outcome in Philadelphia incident.” It says, in part:
First, to once again express our deepest apologies to the two men who were arrested with a goal of doing whatever we can to make things right. Second, to let you know of our plans to investigate the pertinent facts and make any necessary changes to our practices that would help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again. And third, to reassure you that Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling.
We have immediately begun a thorough investigation of our practices. In addition to our own review, we will work with outside experts and community leaders to understand and adopt best practices. The video shot by customers is very hard to watch and the actions in it are not representative of our Starbucks Mission and Values. Creating 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. Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.
We also will further train our partners to better know when police assistance is warranted. Additionally, we will host a company-wide meeting next week to share our learnings, discuss some immediate next steps and underscore our long-standing commitment to treating one another with respect and dignity. I know our store managers and partners work hard to exceed our customers’ expectations every day—which makes this very poor reflection on our company all the more painful.
Camille Hymes, the regional vice president for Starbucks, asked demonstrators not to blame the store manager and instead blame Starbucks’ policies.
“I know the question has come up in terms of whether or not the manager should be fired, and we take full responsibility,” Hymes said. “We put her in a position that did not allow her to be set up for success—or those two men.”
In a longer video posted on Youtube, Yaffe can be heard talking to the officers telling them that the two men weren’t trespassing but were waiting to meet with him. At one point, he says, “That’s absolutely discrimination.”
Philadelphia Police Department Commissioner Richard Ross Jr said in a statement that the actions of the officers were completely warranted:
These officers had legal standing to make this arrest. These officers did absolutely nothing wrong. They followed policy, they did what they were supposed to do, they were professional in all their dealings with these gentlemen—and instead they got the opposite back. …
I will say that as an African-American male, I am very aware of implicit bias. We are committed to fair and unbiased policing, and anything less than that will not be tolerated in this department.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said that the incident “appears to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018.”
Johnson told Good Morning America that he wanted to meet with the two men face to face to apologize. They’ve apparently agreed.
“I’d like to have a dialogue with them so that I can ensure that we have opportunity to really understand the situation and show some compassion and empathy for the experience they went through,” Johnson said. “Finally as we’re working to solve this, I’d like to invite them to join me in finding a constructive way to solve this issue.”