Starbucks CEO apologizes to Black men arrested in Philly store, Black police commissioner defends arrest
A white person who calls the police on a Black person—without legitimate threat to person, property or loved ones—greatly increases the odds that the Black person will be harmed or killed.
Last Thursday, a white female Starbucks employee called the police on two Black men in the Philadelphia store. Multiple reports state that a Starbucks employee told the two realtors they would need to make a purchase or leave the store. The men, who came to the coffee shop to meet a friend, waited before buying anything. Like clockwork, as their friend walked in, police officers arrested the men.
Melissa DePino, who is also white, witnessed the event. The writer recorded and tweeted the occurrence to Starbucks. During the weekend, her tweets went rival and #BoycottStarbucks trended.
The men, she wrote, “were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white people are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing.”
While DePino insisted that the men’s mistreatment was the story and not her, she shared how discussing the events with other white people revealed their stereotypical beliefs. More than one person implied that the men must have performed some act that she hadn’t seen or were recognized from causing trouble previously at the same Starbucks, she said.
Starbucks CEO Kevin R. Johnson said he wants to meet the two men and apologize to them “face-to-face.” The executive also promised to investigate and “make any necessary changes to our practices that would help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again.”
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who is Black, defended the officers’ arrests and professed understanding of implicit bias. Ross said the officers “did absolutely nothing wrong,” were professional and “got the opposite back.” This goes to show how diversified policing can also be used in an attempt to further legitimize violent police contact with Black people.
The men, who have not yet been identified, were arrested on suspicion of trespassing and later released. A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office cited “lack of evidence that a crime was committed.”