WASHINGTON–The arrest of two young black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks store has sparked protests at the location where the men where handcuffed and hauled away by the police.
Activists have taken to social media to suggest African Americans boycott the company’s 11,000 U.S. stores for the wrongful profiling last week of the two men, who were waiting for a friend in the store when the store manager called the police and asked for them to be arrested for trespassing. The two men were denied access to the store’s restroom because they had not ordered, police said. After they refused the manager’s request for them to leave, police said, she dialed 911.
Starbucks declined to press charges and the men were released after being held for nine hours. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson issued a formal apology on Good Morning America.
“The circumstances surrounding the incident and the outcome in our store on Thursday were reprehensible, they were wrong,” he said, “and for that, I personally apologize to the two gentlemen who visited our store.”
Meanwhile, Rosalind Brewer, Starbucks’ chief operating officer and a graduate of historically black Spelman College in Atlanta, told National Public Radio that watching the video of the men’s arrest was “quite painful.”
“The police should not have been called in this situation, and this was a teachable moment for all of us.”
Despite calls by some for a boycott of Starbucks stores, business was steady at the coffeehouse frequented by Howard University students at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Bryant Street in northwest Washington.
Bria Stone, a senior at Howard University from Denver, sat inside drinking coffee and studying, as she frequently does. She said she knew of the event, yet didn’t think the public apology from the CEO was enough. She said hadn’t committed to the idea of a boycott.
“I’m on the fence,” said Stone, who is majoring in Broadcasting. “I need to know what action they’re going to take.”
Some, were in support of Starbucks.
Others blamed the company for the actions of their employee and felt as though action should be taken.
Some celebrities, like comedian and actor, Kevin Hart have spoken about the incident.
“I was simply saying not to boycott before seeing what the company was going to do….after watching the interview that the CEO of @Starbucksdid on @GMAI feel that they failed in doing what they should have done. Now actions can be taken…” Hart tweeted.
Lavonia Bobo, a Howard University student from Richmond, Calif., was studying inside the Starbucks with two friends. None of them were drinking coffee, nor were they eating food from the store.
Bobo had no plan to shun the establishment.
“The boycott isn’t going to do anything,” she said. “[Starbucks] needs to do something with [Black Lives Matter] now or do more for the black community in general.”
Jason Hilare, a Howard University sophomore from Los Angeles, was also seated inside the Georgia Avenue Starbucks on Monday.
Hilare, 19, said despite the incident, he didn’t have a problem with Starbucks.
“The issue is not Starbucks", he said, “it was that woman.”
The woman has since been removed from her position at the Starbucks location in Philadelphia, the company said.
Activists protesting outside the Philadelphia Starbucks, with signs and megaphones, shut down the facility Tuesday. They say the incident smacks of biased racial profiling.
Others say the two men should have spent money in the store and avoided the confrontation.
Starbucks has announced plans to shut down 8,000 of its company-owned stores for one day while it provides bias training. Meanwhile, the chief executive officer has met with and apologized to the two men who were arrested in Philadelphia.