The arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks has left the coffee chain and the city’s police force reeling, as angry demonstrators protested at the shop for the second day in a row.
A store manager who called the police on the two men on Thursday reportedly “left the company” on Monday, a Starbucks spokeswoman told The Philadelphia Inquirer. According to reports, the men were sitting at a table inside the Starbucks, but hadn’t ordered anything as they were waiting for a friend to arrive. When they refused to leave, the manager called the cops. A video of the incident that quickly went viral showed officers walking the men out of the store in handcuffs.
Roughly 30 protesters showed up to the Starbucks Monday morning, starting their demonstration outside before moving into the cafe at 7:30 a.m., holding signs reading, “End Stop and Frisk” and “We have nothing to lose but our chains.” They also chanted: “A whole lot of coffee, a whole lot of whack. Starbucks coffee is anti-black.”
"We don't want this Starbucks to make any money today. That's our goal," protest organizer and co-founder of the Black and Brown Workers Collective Abdul-Aliy Muhammad told WPVI. Demonstrators made speeches denouncing “police brutality and gentrification.”
"This is a systemic issue. Everyone in the city government is complicit and so is Starbucks. Ever since this happened, we have been getting reports that this is not the only place in the city that this is occurring,” protest organizer Megan Malachi told the Philly Voice. "This is outrageous, this is insulting and we are not going to stand for it."
Camille Hymes, Starbucks’ regional vice president, stopped by the protest and tried to speak to demonstrators but was “shouted down,” according to WPVI.
“What you’re going to do is change those policies. What you’re going to do is stop calling the police, because we are committed to being here as much as possible. So if you want to keep seeing our faces, having us yell at you guys on a daily basis then you guys keep it up,” one protester said. “We’re gonna get to those in power and we’re going to make sure that we shut you down.”
The protest shut down business at the coffee shop for more than three hours on Monday—just as Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson went on Good Morning America to address the heated situation. He admitted the initial incident did not warrant a police response, calling it “reprehensible” and “completely inappropriate.”
The arrested men agreed to meet with Johnson, who also said that store managers will undergo training on “unconscious bias.”
Mayor Jim Kenney came out against the arrests, saying they appear “to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018."
Police Commissioner Richard Ross has also spoken out, calling the situation “unfortunate” in an interview with WPVI. He claimed that the officers involved “were really trying not to make an arrest in this case,” and they “were in there for about 15 minutes before an arrest was made[.]”
“I can tell you that that police officer did not want to have to make an arrest in that incident,” Ross said. “The whole thing, we just wish it didn't happen.”