The CEO of coffee shop-chain Starbucks issued an apology Saturday to two black men who were arrested from one of its franchise stores in Philadelphia, after the men claimed they were victims of racial profiling by the employees as well as the police. In a statement on it’s website, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson acknowledged the incident as “a disheartening situation in one of our Philadelphia-area stores this past Thursday, that led to a reprehensible outcome,” according to a report in the Washington Post.
Johnson admitted that the manager of the store in question made a mistake. “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,” he said.
Videos captured on mobile phones, which show as many as six local police officers asking two black men seated at the store to exit, have gone viral on social media. The officers were told by a man named Andrew Yaffe, who arrived shortly after, that the two men were waiting for him but the police did not refrain from arresting the duo. One of the videos had garnered about 4.5 milllion views by Saturday evening.
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“Why would they be asked to leave?” Yaffe said, “Does anybody else think this is ridiculous?” he asks people nearby, adding, “It’s absolute discrimination,” according to the Washington Post.
The two were released early on Friday as no case was filed against them.
Despite the two men telling an employee of the store that they were waiting for a friend, the worker, Lauran Wimmer, dialed the cops, the counsel for the two men, told Washington Post. She added that Yaffe runs a real estate devlopment company and the three had scheduled a meeting at the store to consider avenues for investment.
After the two men were taken to the police station, their fingerprints and photographs were taken. They were detained for nine hours. An officer had even suggested that the two face charges for “defiant trespassing,” the report said.
Starbucks issued an apology on its Twitter handle as well saying that it “disappointed this led to an arrest.”
The police department of Philadelphia was condemned as well. On a Facebook Live video on Saturday, however, Richard Ross, the Commissioner of Police, defended the officers’ action.
“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,” Ross said. “And instead, they got the opposite back.” Ross said police arrested the men after they refused three requests to leave.
Ross, who is a man of black ethnicity, said that he was aware of affairs where implicit bias — unconscious discrimination based on race – has taken place. However, he did not comment on whether he thought the same was applicable in the Starbucks incident as well. He emphasized, though, the need for officers to have on body-cameras to record police responses from their perspective. The officers involved in Thursday’s did not have cameras on, he said.