Video of 2 Black men being handcuffed in a Starbucks goes viral, prompts police investigation – Starbucks apologizes
Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 4/16/2018, 10:38 a.m.
Starbucks is scrambling to repair public relations damage down after two Black customers were placed in handcuffs while waiting at the coffee franchise in Philadelphia. Starbucks has been accused of racial profiling, prompting the CEO to call the incident “reprehensible.” CSO Kevin Johnson offered “our deepest apologies” to two Black men taken out of the coffee shop in handcuffs by as many as six cops on April 12. One of the store’s managers asked the two men to leaves after they tried to use the bathroom. At the time, the two had not yet made a purchase, although they told the manager that they were waiting for a friend to arrive. The manager then called 911. As is the norm nowadays, the police’s confrontation with the two Black men was captured on video, which has gone viral and been viewed more than 8 million times on social media. The incident has now prompted the police commission and the city’s mayor to respond. “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,” Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, said. According to the Washington Post, the two men were taken to a police station, where they were fingerprinted and photographed, their attorney Lauren Wimmer said on Saturday. Her clients, who declined to be identified, were released eight hours later because the district attorney found no evidence of a crime, she said, adding that the Starbucks manager was white. Wimmer said the man whom the two men were there to meet, Andrew Yaffe, runs a real estate development firm and said he wanted to meet the men to discuss business investment opportunities. Multiple witnesses recorded the incident on cellphones. In one video, Yaffe arrives to tell police that the two men were waiting for him. “Why would they be asked to leave?” Yaffe says. “Does anybody else think this is ridiculous?” he asks people nearby. “It’s absolute discrimination.” A woman chimes in off-camera: “They didn’t do anything.” The two men appear to explain they are there to meet Yaffe. They remain seated and calmly speak with the authorities. An officer begins to clear chairs out of the way in apparent anticipation of an arrest. Yaffe suggests they will go somewhere else. “They’re not free to leave. We’re done with that,” an officer replies. “We asked them to leave the first time.” The two men stand up to be cuffed. They do not appear to resist. Melissa DePino, who recorded the viral video of the incident, told Philadelphia magazine that the men did not escalate the situation. “These guys never raised their voices. They never did anything remotely aggressive,” she said. In the video, there appears to be open tables for any potential waiting customers. Thursday’s incident is a dramatic turn for a company that has positioned itself as a progressive corporate leader that touts “diversity and inclusion” — efforts that have also drawn its share of criticism. Last year, the company vowed to hire 10,000 refugees in a move that drew calls for a boycott, mostly from conservatives. In 2015, its “Race Together” initiative for baristas to discuss racial issues floundered after the company found the public wanted fast coffee — not deep conversations about police killings of unarmed Black men across the country. But now, Starbucks has been forced to bring race back into public discussion outside its own terms, following a moment that has drawn comparison to nonviolent protests during the civil rights movement when Black Americans’ refusals to leave segregated lunch counters were met with police force. Local Black Lives Matter activist Asa Khalif organized a protest of the store on Sunday. He told a Philly.com reporter that he rejects Johnson’s apology, saying that it was “about saving face.” If the company was serious, it would have fired the manager who called 911, he said. Johnson vowed an investigation and a review of its customer-relations protocols, and he said he wanted to meet the two men for a face-to-face apology. “Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome — the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong,” Johnson said. “Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.” Mayor Kenney directed the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to review Starbucks policies and determine whether the company would benefit from training for implicit bias — unconscious discrimination based on race. His office will communicate with Starbucks further to discuss, he said. Kenney said little about the response of his police force beyond mentioning an ongoing review from Police Commissioner Richard Ross. Police have also been criticized for how they handled the situation. The department did not return comment Saturday asking what laws they suspected were being violated and if any administrative actions have been taken during the investigation.