Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Jennifer Bennetch with her son, Yusuf Williams-Bey protest outside the Starbucks on 18th & Spruce Streets in Philadelphia. Two black men were arrested last week in a video incident that went viral over the weekend.

Starbucks CEO apologizes to 2 black men arrested

PHILADELPHIA — Starbucks sells itself as a community gathering spot as much as a coffeehouse, a welcoming place with comfortable chairs for lingering, trendy music and Wi-Fi. That’s one reason the arrest of two black men who were sitting in a Starbucks struck a nerve for so many: They were doing exactly what people do at most any of the chain’s 28,000 stores worldwide.

The CEO of Starbucks Co., Kevin Johnson, called the arrests a “reprehensible outcome” and said he wants to personally apologize to the men, saying the company “stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling.” But that didn’t stop protesters from gathering Sunday outside the store in downtown Philadelphia where the arrests occurred.

As people ordered coffee inside, the Rev. Jeffrey Jordan led a crowd of a couple dozen in chants of “I am somebody, and I demand equality now.”

“It is a shame that (in) the year 2018 we’re still putting up with this mess,” said Jordan. “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.”

In Washington, D.C., Gregory Wilkins usually visits one of three neighbourhood Starbucks for about 45 minutes before work to read the paper with his coffee or smoke a cigarette at the outside tables. Wilkins, who is black, said he’d consider going elsewhere if something like the incident in Philadelphia occurred again.

“If nothing is done about what happened, then yeah,” Wilkins, 56, said as he went into a Starbucks.

The arrests, which occurred Thursday, were captured on video that quickly gained traction on social media.

Video shows several police talking quietly with two black men seated at a table. After a few minutes, officers handcuff the men and lead them outside as other customers say they weren’t doing anything wrong; Philadelphia-area media reported the two had been waiting for a friend.

Officers went to the store after Starbucks employees called 911 to report the men were trespassing, said Police Commissioner Richard Ross. He said officers were told the men had come in and asked to use the restroom but were denied because they hadn’t bought anything. He said they then refused to leave.

Johnson’s statement didn’t address exactly what led to the police call, but a Starbucks spokeswoman said the store where the arrests occurred has a policy that restrooms are for paying customers only. In the video, no Starbucks items are visible in front of either of the men.

Robert Passikoff, the president of a New York-based consulting firm that researches brand loyalty, said companies like Starbucks are in a tough spot as they attempt to operate both as both community centres and places where people are expected to make a purchase.

“Companies have gone out of their way to establish the kind of emotional bonds and product delivery that they think is going to build engagement and loyalty and, ultimately, profits,” said Passikoff, of Brand Keys Inc. “But today the consumer decides what is right. They have become magnets for social experiences, in the broad sense of ‘social,’ but not in the sense that ‘Oh, I need to buy something.’”

Johnson said the company’s practices and training led to a “bad outcome,” and the reason for the call that brought police into the shop was incorrect.

“Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did,” said his statement. Johnson said videos of the arrest were “very hard to watch,” and the company was investigating.

Johnson said the company would further train workers on when to call police and host a company-wide meeting to “underscore our long-standing commitment to treating one another with respect and dignity.”

Police haven’t released the names of the men who were arrested. A spokesman for the district attorney’s office said the two were released “because of lack of evidence” that a crime had been committed, but declined further comment, citing a police investigation.

At the protest, Wendy Mial vowed to never enter another Starbucks. Mial, 53, said she was “devastated” by the arrests and urged the small crowd not to the “choose the wrong enemy.”

“The enemy, in some ways, is ourselves,” she said. “Look how few people are here today. Who’s not outraged about this?”

___

Reeves reported from Birmingham, Alabama. Associated Press writer Chris Rugaber in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

Ron Todt And Jay Reeves, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Man from Olds killed in collision near Sundre

A 39-year-old man from Olds was killed in a collision near Sundre… Continue reading

Tips to keep crime at bay this Christmas

’Tis the season for joy and celebration, but the Christmas season can… Continue reading

Olympic ski run designer creates upgrades at Canyon Ski Resort

Jeff Ihaksi says free-style and alpine ski venues are Canada Winter Games-worthy

Updated: Collision expert backs version of crash of driver accused of manslaughter

Daniel Newsham accused of manslaughter in fatal 2016 collision

WATCH: More than 100 protest UN migration pact, carbon tax in Red Deer

Chants of “Trudeau must go” echoed through the streets of downtown Red… Continue reading

Tkachuk’s goal in 3rd gives Flames 2-1 win over Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Matthew Tkachuk scored the go-ahead goal midway through… Continue reading

Women use scent to lure wolf-dog that ran away from Calgary airport

EDMONTON — A woman from Alberta is thanking an unconventional strategy for… Continue reading

Suspect in Alberta, Saskatchewan bank robberies to get mental assessment

MEDICINE HAT, Alta. — A former Winnipeg broadcaster and journalism instructor accused… Continue reading

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau says his government hopes to make legal changes… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $60 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — There was no winning ticket for the $60 million jackpot… Continue reading

All evacuation orders lifted in deadly California wildfire

PARADISE, Calif. — All evacuation orders have been lifted in Paradise more… Continue reading

All aflutter about our feathered friends

Christmas Bird Count will be held Dec. 23

Baylor ties pervade rape case that sparked uproar

DALLAS — The Texas judge who approved a plea deal allowing a… Continue reading

Most Read