A lengthy apology from Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson on Saturday night to two black men who were arrested at a Philadelphia store last week for alleged trespassing is getting pushback for not holding the employee who called 911 more accountable.
The apology came after cell phone video of their arrest went viral on Thursday afternoon of the two men being cuffed in the store. The woman who posted it said that they had asked to use the restroom while waiting for a friend and that, “all the other white [people] are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing.”
@Starbucks The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing. pic.twitter.com/0U4Pzs55Ci
— Melissa DePino (@missydepino) April 12, 2018
In the clip, when their friend arrives, he asks, “What did they get called for, because there were two black guys sitting here, meeting me?”
“What did they do?” he asked.
The men weren’t released until about 12:30 a.m. on Friday, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, which talked to an attorney who agreed to represent the two men pro bono. By then their arrests had triggered backlash as people in the area started boycotting the coffee shop on Friday and the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks spread.
In Johnson’s apology, he called the situation “disheartening,” and said that it “led to a reprehensible outcome.”
We apologize to the two individuals and our customers for what took place at our Philadelphia store on Thursday. pic.twitter.com/suUsytXHks
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) April 14, 2018
This is strong. Kudos to @starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson for coming out and making it plain where the company stands. Seems like an advisory committee is in the works? Looking forward to seeing what institutional changes are made. https://t.co/tOSkblSa6H
— Symone D. Sanders (@SymoneDSanders) April 15, 2018
He wrote that he wanted to apologize to them in person, and that the basis for the 911 call was wrong and that he would train employees on how to be better.
Many people on social media showed their appreciation for the acknowledgment. But some pointed to part of the statement that strikes at the heart of issues surrounding racial injustices and the Black Lives Matter movement to protect black people from dying at the hands of police.
“Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did,” Johnson said.
People on social media asked why the Starbuck’s employee wasn’t fired and wondered what the employee expected would happen.
Most interesting line from @Starbucks CEO "Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested..". Would be interesting to hear what he/she thought would happen once police were called on 2 black men. https://t.co/YkUuykIK46
— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) April 15, 2018
Well Kevin, the fact that the CEO did NOT fire the “horrible management” means that the corporate sector of Starbucks is complicit. So this IS a Starbucks situation https://t.co/bWXwAV3Bwp
— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) April 15, 2018
Let's make one thing very clear….This is not a boycott @Starbucks situation….This is horrible management. The manager on duty was wrong. It's that simple…That's who needs to take responsibility for this wrong doing.
— Kevin Hart (@KevinHart4real) April 15, 2018
While police can evoke a sense of safety for some, many people within black communities can see them as a direct threat to their lives.
The Black Lives Matter movement started in 2014 after a police officer shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice within seconds of responding to a call about a “guy with a pistol” in a Cleveland park. Rice was playing with an airsoft pellet gun that was in his waistband when he was killed.
That year, black people were twice as likely as white people to be killed by a law enforcement, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since then videos of police responding to calls of disturbances and killing black people have continued to go viral.
With these issues in mind, a black Philadelphia police commissioner defended the department’s decision to arrest the two men in a Facebook Live video on Saturday, citing the 911 call about a “disturbance and trespassing.”
“I will say that as an African American man, I am very aware of implicit bias,” Commissioner Richard Ross said. “I can tell you candidly again, that these officers did absolutely nothing wrong and that they did a service that they were called to do.”
“If you think about it logically that if a business calls and they say that someone is here that I no longer wish to be in my business, they now have a legal obligation to carry out their duties and they did just that,” he said.