The chief executive of Starbucks issued a new, deeper apology to the two black men who were arrested without reason at store in Philadelphia, calling the circumstances “reprehensible” as protests against the coffee chain continue.
In a follow-up message recorded from somewhere in Philadelphia and posted on the company’s website Monday, CEO Kevin Johnson vowed that Starbucks would “learn” from the incident, in which two black men were handcuffed and arrested while reportedly waiting for a friend to arrive, sparking protests and allegations of racial profiling.
On Thursday, the men, who have not been identified, were sitting in the coffee shop waiting for another member of their party to arrive. They had not yet purchased anything and, as witnesses pointed out in now-viral videos, had done nothing wrong. However, Philadelphia police handcuffed and escorted them from the store as several other customers came to their defense.
“What happened in the way that incident escalated and the outcome is nothing but reprehensible,” Johnson said. “I’m sorry.”
According to Philly.com, the female manager who called police on the two men for refusing to leave has reportedly left the store “while there is an internal review pending.” Other outlets, including Reuters and CNN, have reported that she has left the company.
Starbucks did not respond to repeated requests from BuzzFeed News about her status or if an internal review is indeed taking place.
In his video, Johnson explained that he was reviewing the situation and that some stores follow local practices when asking customers to leave. But in this case, Johnson said, there was absolutely no reason to call police.
“These two gentlemen did not deserve what happened,” he said.
However, Johnson pushed back on calls to fire the store manager, saying the blame “is misplaced” and repeatedly emphasizing that he was the one to be held accountable. He also floated making policy changes and introducing additional trainings for store managers, including “unconscious bias” lessons, as ways to prevent these incidents.
Johnson is expected to meet with the two men, the company said, though it’s not clear when.
The Philadelphia mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs said it was “appalled by the arrests” and is “demanding accountability” from the police department and coffee chain.
“We stand not only with the two black men who were wrongfully detained but also with the countless people of color whose very existence continues to be daily undervalued and overpoliced—often without the benefit of a running camera,” the office said in a statement Monday. “We know this incident was not the first…”
Despite the outcry, the Philadelphia Police Department commissioner and a civilian oversight board have defended the responding officers’ actions, saying they “acted within the law.”
“Given the information disclosed, it seems clear that the responding officers, in this case, did not violate the current policies which guide their work and acted in accordance with the law,” Hans Menos, the director of the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission, said in a statement. “As for the Starbucks employees, while it will ultimately be up to the company to decide whether their employees acted within the spirit of their organizational policies, they certainly broke no laws either.
“Further, it seems that the men who were ultimately arrested in this incident may not have been legally justified to be in Starbucks once they refused to make a purchase and did not leave when asked by both the store management and police.”
However, Menos pointed out that Starbucks “should consider if their handling would have been different if the subjects were not black men.”
Starting around 6 a.m. Monday, protesters swarmed several Starbucks in Center City, marching down streets, chanting, and holding sit-ins.
Flanked by civil rights groups like the NAACP and POWER Interfaith Clergy, dozens of people walked through the city demanding justice.
“Starbucks you can’t hid, we can see your dirty side,” the crowds sang.
They also shouted slogan, including, “A whole lot of racism, a whole lot of crap, Starbucks coffee is anti-black.”