Protesters demand firing of Philly Starbucks manager following arrests of two black men

UPDATED: 3:10 p.m.

Activists are calling on Starbucks to fire the manager of a Philadelphia location where two black men were recently arrested.

More than three-dozen people rallied Sunday afternoon outside the store at 18th and Spruce streets, where police said two Starbucks employees called 911 after the two men refused to leave. Police said the men were asked to leave the store after they were told they could not use the bathroom without making a purchase, per Starbucks’ company policy. Bystanders and the two men’s attorney said they were simply waiting for a third person, who showed up during the arrest.

On Sunday, Black Lives Matter activist Asa Khalif led the protesters inside the store where he chanted on a bullhorn, “We are the people, the mighty, mighty people.”

Khalif also demanded that Starbucks fire the manager, and called on Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross to fire the six officers who responded to the scene.

Starbucks regional vice president Camille Hymes spoke with Khalif and the protesters, thanking them for being peaceful.

On the subject of whether the store manager should be fired, Hymes said, “We take full responsibility and put her in a position that did not allow her to be set up for success or those two men.”

“Before you can have any healing, there has to be consequences for her actions,” Khalif responded. “When you call law enforcement on black and brown bodies, they are met with aggression and violence and you know that.” Watch a video of the protesters’ interaction with Hymes below.

“We’ve all been in Starbucks. We all know how flexible that policy is,” said protester Andrew Moulder, of Germantown. “We’ve all come in here and used the bathroom. We’ve all come in here and sat down, charged our phone, used a computer, sent messages or whatever, before we ever ordered a cup of coffee.”

Moulder, who is black, said he doesn’t blame the company for what happened — he blames the store manager for the decision to call the police.

“I was just in Starbucks the day before that a quarter of a mile from here,” he said. “So that could have easily been me having a coffee with my fiancee and then all of a sudden I’m going to jail, I’m in jail until 1 a.m. I mean, people lose jobs over that shit all the time in African-American society.”

“I used to come here twice a week, and I’m not anymore,” said protester Mike Heisey, who lives around the corner from the Starbucks. Heisey was dressed in a Donald Trump mask and an orange jumpsuit, holding a coffee-cup shaped sign that read, “grande racist, no tax returns.”

“I’m not even going to another Starbucks.  I’m done,” said Heisey, who is white. “How do we ever get to a place of equality with this going on? You can’t allow it.”

Another protest at the Starbucks is planned for Monday morning at 7 a.m.

Starbucks does damage control, Philly agencies launch probes

Following the incident — which was captured on a Twitter video that has garnered more than nine million views — Starbucks is in high-level damage control and two Philadelphia agencies have launched probes.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson issued a letter of apology to the two men late Saturday night and is en route to Philadelphia where he said he will join Hymes “to speak with partners, customers and community leaders as well as law enforcement.”

“Most importantly,” Johnson wrote in the letter, “I hope to meet personally with the two men who were arrested to offer a face-to-face apology.”

Johnson said the company is also reviewing its policies.

“Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome — the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong,” he wrote. “Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.”

While Philadelphia Police Commissioner Ross said in a video posted to the department’s Facebook page that the officers “did absolutely nothing wrong” and “followed policy,” the department has launched an internal investigation into the incident. Mayor Jim Kenney has asked the city’s Human Relations Commission to review Starbucks’ policies and practices.

Attorney Lauren Wimmer, who is representing the two men, has not responded to multiple requests for comment, but told Fox29 on Sunday morning that her clients are “traumatized.”

“This case speaks milestones about the racial controversies that we see every day in America, and that’s exactly what happened here,” she said. “This case, make no mistake about it, is about race.”

Wimmer said the two men were there to meet a third person, real estate investor Andrew Yaffe, who is white. Yaffe showed up at the Starbucks as the men were being arrested, and can be seen and heard on the Twitter video saying, “This is ridiculous. What did they get called for, because there are two black guys sitting here meeting me?”

Reached by phone Sunday afternoon, Yaffe declined to comment.

Wimmer, who did not name the two men, said after they were arrested around 5:30 p.m. Thursday, they were taken to the nearby police district where they were held for about eight hours.

Around 12:30 a.m., she said the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office informed her that it was declining to press charges due to a lack of evidence that the men had committed a crime.

Wimmer also criticized the PPD’s response and questioned why the department would send six officers to the scene.

“This should have been a conversation between one and two officers and the two gentlemen and that’s it. If it needed to be a conversation to be held outside of the Starbucks so they could diffuse the situation, that’s what should have been done. There was no need to parade these men through the Starbucks in handcuffs.”

Here’s a video of the protesters inside the Starbucks, including their interaction with the company’s regional vice president:

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