The CEO of Starbucks issued a detailed apology over the weekend after a video that shows two black men being arrested in one of the company’s stores in Philadelphia went viral and sparked widespread outrage. “The video shot by customers is very hard to watch and the actions in it are not representative of our Starbucks Mission and Values,” Kevin Johnson wrote in a statement posted on the company’s website. “Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.” Johnson went on to say that he wants to “offer a face-to-face” apology to the two black men who were arrested.
The apology came as both Philadelphia’s mayor’s office and police department launched investigations into the arrest of the two men who were waiting to meet someone for a business meeting at the Starbucks on Thursday. An attorney for the men says they were waiting at the Starbucks for less than 15 minutes for a meeting over a real estate project.
The videos of the incident show at least six Philadelphia police officers standing over the men while asking them to leave. That’s when a man who has been identified as real estate investor Andrew Yaffe arrives and tells police the men were waiting for him. “Why would they be asked to leave?” Yaffe can be heard saying. “Does anybody else think this is ridiculous?” He then describes the situation: “It’s absolute discrimination.” The men were taken out in handcuffs and released early Friday with no charges filed.
“The video, in this case, essentially speaks for itself,” Lauren Wimmer, the men’s attorney, said. “These guys were doing what people do every day, they were having a meeting and they were undoubtedly singled out because of their race.”
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny said he was “very concerned” about the incident. “Heartbroken to see Philly in the headlines for what — at least based on what we know now — appears to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018,” Kenney wrote on Twitter. Police commissioner Richard Ross defended his officers, saying they “did absolutely nothing wrong” in how they reacted to the complaint that the two men were trespassing. “As an African-American male, I am very aware of implicit bias,” he said before noting the officers had acted according to protocol. “If you think about it logically, that if a business calls and they say that someone is here that I no longer wish to be in my business, they (the officers) now have a legal obligation to carry out their duties. And they did just that.”