How many times have you used the bathroom at a Starbucks without buying anything or before ordering your latte? I don’t know about you, but I’ve done it dozens of times and never once did I face the threat of having law enforcement called to arrest me for loitering. But as a white woman, it’s unlikely that I will ever be racially profiled as it happened this week to two African-American men in Philadelphia at a Center City Starbucks. The profiling resulted in the two men being arrested and taken out of the establishment in handcuffs. The two men were waiting for an acquaintance and as shown in the Twitter video filmed by Melissa DePino @missydepino, did not resist arrest or caused a disturbance.
@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
The two men, who have been since identified as local real estate brokers, were waiting for Philadelphia real estate investor Andrew Yaffe to discuss a business deal and were waiting for him before placing their order. Yaffe, the third man, arrived for their meeting as they were led away in handcuffs and witnessed the arrest and he is seen and heard asking the officers “What did they do? This is ridiculous.”
They were subsequently released around 1:30 in the morning.
Lauren Wimmer, the victims’ attorney told the Philadelphia Inquirer she was informed that the two were being released from custody at 12:30 a.m. Friday, nearly eight hours after the initial 911 call. Ross confirmed that the officers released the men from custody after they discovered that “Starbucks was no longer interested in prosecuting.”
In a video statement streamed on Facebook Live from the Philadelphia Police Department’s page, Commissioner Richard Ross confirmed the following facts: on Thursday afternoon at 4:40 p.m., Philadelphia police received a 911 call from the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce Streets alleging disturbance and trespassing. He issued the following statement:
“[The police officers] followed policy, they did what they were supposed to do, they were professional in all their dealings with these gentlemen, and instead, they got the opposite back. I will say that as an African American man, I am very aware of implicit bias. We are committed to fair and unbiased policing and anything less than that will not be tolerated in this department.”
The Philadelphia’s mayor’s office and Police Department have begun separate investigations.
Here is the letter issued by Starbucks Corporate on behalf of Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks
Dear Starbucks Partners and Customers:
By now, you may be aware of a disheartening situation in one of our Philadelphia-area stores this past Thursday, that led to a reprehensible outcome.
I’m writing this evening to convey three things:
First, to once again express our deepest apologies to the two men who were arrested with a goal of doing whatever we can to make things right. Second, to let you know of our plans to investigate the pertinent facts and make any necessary changes to our practices that would help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again. And third, to reassure you that Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling.
In the coming days, I will be joining our regional vice president, Camille Hymes—who is on the ground in Philadelphia—to speak with partners, customers and community leaders as well as law enforcement. Most importantly, I hope to meet personally with the two men who were arrested with.
We have immediately begun a thorough investigation of our practices. In addition to our own review, we will work with outside experts and community leaders to understand and adopt best practices. The video shot by customers is very hard to watch, and the actions in it are not representative of our Starbucks Mission and Values. Creating an environment that is both safe and welcoming for everyone is paramount for every store. 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.
We also will further train our partners to know better when police assistance is warranted. Additionally, we will host a company-wide meeting next week to share our learnings, discuss some immediate next steps and underscore our long-standing commitment to treating one another with respect and dignity. I know our store managers and partners work hard to exceed our customers’ expectations every day—which makes this very poor reflection on our company all the more painful.
Finally, to our partners who proudly wear the green apron and to customers who come to us for a sense of community every day: You can and should expect more from us. We will learn from this and be better.
T’Questlove, a Philadelphia native and the percussionist and joint frontman (with Black Thought) for the Grammy Award-winning band The Roots, and band leader for in-house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, expressed in a tweet what many felt,
— T’Questlove (@questlove) April 14, 2018
At the time of publishing The Scope Weekly had not heard back from the two men’s attorneys, Yaffee and Starbucks. If new information is provided, the article will be updated.