Starbucks apologized Saturday to two black men arrested at a Philadelphia store in an incident that has led to accusations of racial profiling by the company and police.
Cellphone videos captured the tense moment Thursday afternoon when at least six Philadelphia Police Department officers stood over two seated black men, asking them to leave. A man named Andrew Yaffe arrives to tell police that the two men were waiting for him. The officer says that they were not complying and were being arrested for trespassing.
“Why would they be asked to leave?” Yaffe says. “Does anybody else think this is ridiculous?” he asks people nearby. “It’s absolute discrimination,” Yaffe adds. The two unidentified men are taken out in handcuffs soon after. They were released early Friday with no charges filed.
One of the videos of the arrest rocketed across social media, with 4.5 million views by Saturday evening.
@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
Lauren Wimmer, the attorney for the two men, told The Washington Post that her clients told a Starbucks employee that they were waiting for Yaffe. Shortly after, a white female employee called the police, Wimmer said.
Wimmer said Yaffe, who runs a real estate development firm, said that he was there to meet the men to discuss business investment opportunities.
The two men, whom she declined to identify, were taken to a police station, fingerprinted and photographed. One officer suggested that they faced charges for “defiant trespassing,” Wimmer said. They were held for nearly nine hours before they were released, she said, after prosecutors said they would not pursue charges.
Benjamin Waxman, a spokesman for Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, said the office decided that there “wasn’t sufficient evidence to charge [the men] with a crime.”
In a statement on Twitter, Starbucks apologized to the two men and said it was “disappointed this led to an arrest.”
An employee called the police for help to get the men out of the store but later regretted that it escalated into an arrest, said a company official familiar with the incident, who declined to give a name to freely describe internal discussions. The employee was doing the right thing according to store policy, the official told The Post, but the company is evaluating its guidance out of concern that the options and decisions may not be clear.
“Did we set her up with the right protocol?” the official asked.
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
SOURCE: The Washington Post