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 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 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?” she 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.
Starbucks said they “take these matters seriously and clearly have more work to do when it comes to how we handle incidents in our stores.”
“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,” said Starbucks.
A Starbucks representative directed BuzzFeed News to the statement on their Twitter account.
The manager who reportedly called the police has not been identified, and calls to that Starbucks location could not be completed.
The person who posted the video on Twitter could also not immediately be reached.