Two Black Men Were Arrested In Starbucks. Witnesses Say They "Didn't Do Anything."
The men had simply been waiting for another person to arrive before they ordered, their lawyer said. A Starbucks manager phoned the police.
Two black men were arrested in a Starbucks in Philadelphia on Thursday, and witnesses said the men "didn't do anything."
In a widely circulated video of the incident, at least two people who were present verbally defended the two men and questioned why they were being arrested and handcuffed.
"This is ridiculous," said one white man to a police officer in the video. "What did they get called for? Because there were two black guys sitting here meeting me? What did they do?"
"They didn't do anything, I saw the entire thing," a woman can be heard saying.
At least five police officers were present during the arrest, the video shows.
Police have not named the men, and the pair's attorney, Lauren A. Wimmer, also declined to name them "at this time."
The two men had gone to the Starbucks to meet Andrew Yaffe, the white man who can be seen in the video questioning the police officers, according to Wimmer.
Yaffe could not immediately be reached for comment, but Wimmer told BuzzFeed News he is a friend of the two men. He runs a real estate development, investment, and management firm, and the men were meeting with him "to discuss potential residential and commercial real estate opportunities in Philadelphia," she said.
The two men had not ordered immediately upon arriving, as they were still waiting for Yaffe. While they waited for him, "a white female manager who was on duty at the time" asked them to leave, said Wimmer.
When they said they were just waiting for another person to arrive before ordering, she phoned the police, Wimmer said.
"How many times have we sat in Starbucks minding our own business, waiting for a friend to come, and then we order?" Wimmer said.
When Yaffe arrived and found the two men being arrested, he called Wimmer, whom he is also friends with, she said.
The two men were arrested around 5:30 p.m., and were fingerprinted and photographed by police.
Police told Wimmer they had arrested the men for "defiant trespassing."
The District Attorney did not approve the charges, and the two men were released around 2:00 a.m. on Friday.
"Two young black men, who were simply waiting to be joined by a friend, were blatantly discriminated against based on their race," Wimmer said in a tweet. "Not only is this inexcusable, it's illegal."
"You can see in the video their disposition," Wimmer told BuzzFeed News. "It’s as if they’re both thinking, 'I can’t believe this is actually happening.'"
"This was a highly traumatizing experience for both of them, and hopefully they’ll be able to recover," she said.
Another lawyer representing the two men, Stewart Cohen, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
The Starbucks manager who reportedly called the police has not been identified, and calls to the store where the incident took place did not go through Saturday.
The person who posted the video on Twitter could also not immediately be reached.
In a video on Saturday, Police Commissioner Richard Ross defended his officers' response, saying they did "absolutely nothing wrong."
Ross said that the two men had sat down at a table in the Starbucks and, before ordering anything, went to use the restroom.
"Starbucks said that according to their company policy, they do not allow nonpaying members of the public to come in and use the restroom," Ross said. Police asked the men to leave the Starbucks three times, he added, and they were arrested when they refused to do so.
The "police had legal standing to make this arrest," Ross said. "In short, these officers did absolutely nothing wrong."
Ross, who is black, denied that the arrests were racist in nature.
"I will say that as an African-American male, I am very aware of implicit bias," he said. "We are committed to fair, unbiased policing, and anything less than that will not be tolerated in this department."
In a statement on Twitter, Starbucks apologized to the two men, as well as customers, and said they are "disappointed this led to an arrest."
Starbucks takes "these matters seriously and clearly have more work to do when it comes to how we handle incidents in our stores," the company said. "We are reviewing our policies and will continue to engage with the community and the police department to try to ensure these types of situations never happen in any of our stores."
Despite the company's attempted assurances, however, the arrests have sparked growing outrage on social media, including a Twitter campaign to #BoycottStarbucks.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney called Saturday for a city commission to review the incident, saying that Starbucks' apology was "not enough."
“I am heartbroken to see Philadelphia in the headlines for an incident that — at least based on what we know at this point — appears to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018," Kenney said in a statement.
Kenney said that he had directed the city's Commission on Human Relations to examine Starbucks' policies and procedures, including the "extent of, or need for implicit bias training" among the company's employees.
"Like all retail establishments in our city, Starbucks should be a place where everyone is treated the same, no matter the color of their skin," Kenney said.
As backlash mounted Saturday, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson issued a longer response, apologizing for the incident in a public letter, and promising a "thorough investigation of our practices."
"Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome—the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong," Johnson wrote in a public letter. "Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did."
Johnson said that he would travel to Philadelphia "in the coming days" to speak with Starbucks partners, law enforcement, and community leaders. He also said that he hoped to apologize in person to the two men who were arrested.
Monday, Starbucks told CNN the two men in question had agreed to meet with the company's CEO to discuss the incident.
Johnson also said, on Good Morning America, that there would be more training for staff on "unconscious bias."
"I've been very focused on understanding what guidelines and what training ever let this happen," he said. "What happened was wrong and we will fix it."