NAACP says Starbucks incident part of a national trend of discrimination

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People gather outside a Starbucks on 18th and Spruce streets in Philadelphia to protest Thursday's controversial arrests of two black men at the store. (Bastiaan Slabbers/for WHYY)

People gather outside a Starbucks on 18th and Spruce streets in Philadelphia to protest Thursday's controversial arrests of two black men at the store. (Bastiaan Slabbers/for WHYY)

The NAACP is calling the arrest of two black men in a Starbucks “disgraceful” and further evidence that we have a long way to go to reach Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of people not being judged by the color of their skin.

On Thursday evening, police in Philadelphia were called to a Starbucks store in the upscale neighborhood of Rittenhouse Square where two black men were told they couldn’t use the bathroom because they hadn’t bought anything, and then refused to leave the premises. Six police officers arrived and arrested the two men after they refused the officers’ repeated requests to leave. The entire incident was caught on video that has gone viral, and sparked three days of protests outside the store at 18th and Spruce Streets.

Speaking to WHYY’s NewsWorks Tonight host Dave Heller, Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP, said what happened in Philadelphia is part of a national trend of discrimination.

“A 14-year-old boy was seeking directions to school. It was assumed that he was trying to break in and shots were fired upon him,” said Johnson, referring to the case of a black teenager who was shot at by a white man in the Detroit suburbs. “Now we see it in corporate behavior.”

Johnson said media organizations can help solve this problem by encouraging the general public to become aware of their “implicit bias,” so that unarmed individuals who pose no threat to anyone are not attacked.

In the Philadelphia incident, no one was physically hurt. On Tuesday, Starbucks announced that the Rittenhouse Store manager no longer works at that location.

To hear the full conversation with Johnson, listen to the audio above.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the circumstances of the shooting of the 14-year-old near Detroit.

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