A video of two black men being taken out of a Philadelphia Starbucks in handcuffs April 12 has gone viral and caused a social media firestorm, with police saying they “did absolutely nothing wrong.”
#BoycottStartucks has begun to trend on Twitter after @missydepino filmed the scene and published it via a tweet April 12, where it already garnered nearly five million views at the time of publishing.
In the video, at least six Philadelphia police officers are seen taking the two seemingly cooperative men out of the store, located at 18th and Spruce Streets.
The caption of the video states: “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.”
Several white customers could be heard defending the black men in the background.
“This is ridiculous,” says one man from the scene. “What did they get called for? Cuz there were two black guys sitting here eating? What did they do, what did they do?”
“They didn’t do anything,” a woman replies. “I saw the entire thing.”
In a second video, which was reportedly taken only minutes before the arrests, shows officers speaking to the men before a third man, identified as Andrew Yaffe, emerges, and alleges that the black men were waiting for him.
When Yaffe, who is white, asks the officers why they are surrounding the men, an officer said it was due to “trespassing,” adding that the men were asked to leave.
“Why would they be asked to leave?” Yaffe asks the officers. “I wanted to get coffee for two black guys sitting and meeting with me,” he tells the officer. “Does anybody else think this is ridiculous?” he asks other customers.
“It is ridiculous,” a woman replies.
“It’s absolutely discrimination,” Yaffe stated.
Starbucks responded to the video saying they’re “reviewing the incident with our partners, law enforcement and customers to determine what took place and led to this unfortunate result.” The company also issued the following statement April 14:
We apologize to the two individuals and our customers and are disappointed this led to an arrest. 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.
In addition, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson later released the following statement:
Dear Starbucks Partners and Customers:
By now, you may be aware of a disheartening situation in one of our Philadelphia-area stores this past Thursday, that led to a reprehensible outcome.
I’m writing this evening to convey three things:
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.
In the coming days, I will be joining our regional vice president, Camille Hymes — who is on the ground in Philadelphia — to speak with partners, customers and community leaders as well as law enforcement. Most importantly, I hope to meet personally with the two men who were arrested to offer a face-to-face apology.
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.
Finally, to our partners who proudly wear the green apron and to customers who come to us for a sense of community every day: You can and should expect more from us. We will learn from this and be better.
The two men will be meeting with Johnson this week, a Starbucks spokesperson told NBC News.
“We are aware of an incident that occurred on 4-12-18 at the Starbucks Café at 18th and Spruce,” Philadelphia Police tweeted April 13. “The entire incident, including the actions of the responding officers, is under internal investigation. Once we gather all the facts, we will comment further.”
However, on April 14 Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross spoke out on Facebook Live, stating the officers “did absolutely nothing wrong.” Ross stated, in part:
On Thursday at about 4:40, police received a 911 call for a disturbance and trespassing. When the police arrived, they were met by Starbucks employees who said that two males were trespassing and had refused to leave the establishment. According to employees, they had seen these two males come in, they had sat down. And after being seated they decided they had to use the restroom. Starbucks said according to their company policy, they do not allow non-paying members or non-paying people of the public to use the restroom.
Ross said the men were told by officers who asked them to leave that they were trespassing. The men answered “we don’t care,” to which Ross said was “same type of attitude” described by Starbucks employees.
“As an African American male, I am very aware of implicit bias.” Ross said, adding that the department is “committed to fair and unbiased policing.” However, he also explained that officers do in fact have a right to act when a business calls with this type of complaint.
The district attorney’s office said it will not seek charges against the men because of a lack of evidence, according to Huffington Post.
The Incident Has Caused Outrage Via Social Media
Many are taking to social media to express their outrage towards the incident, including thousands who are tweeting the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks.
“were they told to leave? doubtful,” @rachelface927 tweeted. “they probably weren’t even spoken to – “scary black guys just sitting there, better call the cops.” the fact that we have to try to justify the reason is part of the problem. black people are hassled every day for no reason whatsoever.”
Many believe white people would not receive the same treatment under the same circumstances.
“#BoycottStarbucks Thanks for posting. I will not spend another dime @Starbucks,” @rachelface927 wrote. “White people sit there for hours & no one bothers them. Black men sitting & waiting for a friend get arrested. Clearly they don’t deserve our money.”
“IT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH!,” @CandiceNesbitt responded to Starbucks’ statement. “You want us to spend our money but we can’t just hang out like all “white people” sucking up heat, a/c, & free wi-fi. Ya gets no more of my hard earn money ? we are sick & tired of the treatment #BlackLivesMatters #boycottStarbucks.”
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Keeney tweeted:
Heartbroken to see Philly in the headlines for what — at least based on what we know now — appears to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018. Like all establishments in Philly, Starbucks should be a place where everyone is treated the same
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