The CEO of Starbucks wants to personally apologise to two black men arrested for ‘trespassing’ in one of the coffee chain’s cafes while reportedly waiting for a friend.
Caught on camera by local writer Melissa DePino, the video of the arrests at the Centre City cafe in Philadelphia has been viewed over eight million times.
“The video shot by customers is very hard to watch,” CEO Kevin Johnson said.
I hope to meet personally with the two men who were arrested to offer a face-to-face apology.”
Philadelphia police commissioner Richard Ross defended the actions of the officers in the video, saying they “did absolutely nothing wrong”.
A Starbucks staffer called 911 to say the men were “trespassing,” Mr Ross said in a statement on Facebook.
This was confirmed by Starbucks.
“Regretfully our practices and training led to a bad outcome,” CEO Kevin Johnson said. “The basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong.”
The customers had reportedly refused to leave after being told they had to buy something if they wanted to use the bathroom.
The April 12 incident sparked outrage from members of the black community who accused Starbucks of treating them like second-class citizens.
“Coffee is black, not blonde,” said a sign held by one of dozens of protesters gathered outside the cafe on Sunday.
Others read “Boycott Racist Starbucks” and “#Enough Shame On You Starbucks”.
In a statement posted to the company’s website late on April 14, Mr Johnson apologised for the “reprehensible outcome” and insisted the company stands “firmly against discrimination or racial profiling”.
“Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.”
@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
In the video, several police are seen talking quietly with two black men seated at a table.
After a few minutes, officers handcuff the men and lead them outside while a customer repeatedly asks what the men had done.
“This is ridiculous. What did they get called for? Because they’re two black guys sitting here?” he asked.
Tweeted Ms DePino, “People are saying there must be more to this story. There isn’t. This would never happen to someone who looks like me.”
The men’s lawyer Lauren Wimmer later told The Washington Post the pair was waiting to meet a real estate developer named Andrew Yaffe.
“Why would they be asked to leave?” Mr Yaffe can be heard saying in the video. “It’s absolute discrimination.”
Both men, who have not been named, were released after eight hours “because of lack of evidence” that they had committed a crime, a police spokesman said.
Starbucks, which has 28,000 cafes worldwide, has begun investigating the incident, as have the police.
But that was “too little too latte” for the protesters outside the Philadelphia café, who chanted, “I am somebody, and I demand equality now”.
At one point, Black Lives Matter activist Asa Khalif led the group inside the café but they left after 10 minutes.
“This country was built on the backs of black and brown people and now Starbucks is going to treat us like we’re second-class,” said Reverend Jeffrey Jordan, who led the group.
“It is a shame that in the year 2018, we’re still putting up with this mess.”
Celebrities and politicians also called for action. Philadephia comedian Kevin Hart tweeted Starbucks needed to “make this situation right.”
Message to the @Starbucks in Philadelphia….Our city is shining bright like a diamond right now. Please make this situation right. I repeat please make this situation right!!!!!!! Once again MAKE THIS RIGHT
— Kevin Hart (@KevinHart4real) April 15, 2018
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said the apology “is not enough” and “Starbucks should be a place where everyone is treated the same, no matter the colour of their skin”.