Updated: 6:30 p.m.
Philadelphia officials met Monday afternoon with Starbucks executives to discuss the arrests of two black men who were denied use of a store’s bathroom and refused to leave.
Mayor Jim Kenney says he was pleased Starbucks executives traveled to his city to talk about what happened and “were very contrite.”
Kenney met with both Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson and the Philadelphia Police Commissioner to figure out what went wrong, and how to change policies so it doesn’t happen again.
“It’s a complicated set of circumstances,” the mayor said. “The library is a public space, a rec center is a public space. The kitchen in your home is not a public space, but a private business that opens itself up to the public is a quasi-public space.”
Johnson said the meeting was “very constructive.”
“We really appreciate the transparency in the spirit in which we are working together to ensure we address the situation that occurred last week in a Starbucks store,” he said.
— Emma Lee (@EmmaLeePhoto) April 16, 2018
The manager of the store near Rittenhouse Square where the arrests took place no longer works at the store, a Starbucks spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also said that the two men have agreed to meet with Johnson, who arrived in Philadelphia over the weekend after video of the arrests went viral online.
“I’d like to have a dialogue with them and the opportunity to listen to them with compassion and empathy through the experience they went through,” said Johnson, who has been CEO about a year.
Attorney Stewart Cohen, who represents the two men, says he hopes “something productive for the community” can come out of their meeting with the company.
Cohen at first indicated the meeting would take place Monday but later said he was not saying when it would occur.
Cohen declined to identify the two men. A different attorney who had earlier represented them had described them as professionals in commercial real estate.
Third straight day of protests
Earlier Monday, Johnson said he wants to add training for store managers on “unconscious bias.”
It came as activists held a third straight day of protests at the store on 18th and Spruce Streets.
The incident is a major blow to Starbucks’ image, since the company has promoted its coffee shops as neighborhood hangouts where anyone is welcome. After a video of the arrests spread online, the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks trended on Twitter.
Protesters, led by the faith-based group POWER, staged a sit-in at the store near Rittenhouse square on Monday evening where they sang and chanted slogans like, “I believe that we will win” and, “This is what theology looks like.” Video courtesy of Lenny Duncan:
On Monday morning, about two-dozen protesters took over the shop near Rittenhouse Square, chanting, “A whole lot of racism, a whole lot of crap, Starbucks coffee is anti-black.”
The group of about 60 people included members of Philly Real Justice and Black and Brown Workers Collaboration, who intended to shut down the coffee shop.
The protesters entered the Starbucks shortly after 7 a.m., and the store employees left the premises. No customers were served during the three-hour demonstration.
A Starbucks regional vice president who attempted to talk to the protesters was shouted down.
“We don’t want this Starbucks to make any money today. That’s our goal,” said Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, one of the protest’s organizers and co-founder of the Black and Brown Workers Collective.
“We’re past the point of apologies. We’re past the point of saying we’re sorry,” Muhammad added. “We’re past that point — in history. Not just in Philly, but in history. We’re past the point of sorry. Sorry has never saved a black life.”
“This has to stop, this behavior, both in policy at the police department, and also the policy of the company,” said protester Guillermo Borges who lives near the store. “The way it was executed – it’s just not acceptable.”
Philly police watchdog group defends officers
Over the weekend, demonstrators called for the firing of the employee who contacted police, who arrested the men on Thursday.
They also called for the firing of the six police officers who responded to the scene.
Officials have said police officers were told the men had asked to use the store’s restroom, but were denied because they hadn’t bought anything and they refused to leave. Police haven’t released the names of the men, who were later released after the district attorney’s office said there was lack of evidence that a crime had been committed.
Mayor Kenney addressed the incident in front of reporters Monday morning, appearing to blame Starbucks employees and absolving Philadelphia police.
“The officers are kind of in the middle here because they get called for a service call. The protocol is to use the handcuffs when you’re removing someone for everyone’s safety,” Kenney said. “It was a terrible visual, but I don’t think they did anything outside of their requirements and their training.”
In a statement, the head of the city’s Police Advisory Commission, Hans Menos, said he was “disturbed” by the event and the watchdog group is reviewing the incident “to understand how the practice and the customs of the PPD influenced the overall outcome of this situation.”
Menos defended the police officers and the Starbucks employees who called them.
“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,” Menos said. “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.”
Johnson said the company will ensure that employee guidelines on when the police should be called will be clarified.
Asked if the incident was a case of racism, Johnson responded: “Starbucks was built around the concept of a third place where we create a warm and welcoming environment for all customers. What I do know is that did not happen in this instance. And that is what we’re focused on.”
Peter Crimmins, Avi Wolfman-Arent, Kristen de Groot, and Joseph Pisani contributed reporting.