Starbucks wants to open a dialogue with the two black customers who were arrested for trespassing on April 12. A viral video last week showed police arresting two black men inside a Philadelphia location while bystanders, audible in the video, protested loudly that they men "didn't do anything." The two men, Business Insider reports, ran into problems when they asked an employee for the bathroom code, which the employee rejected on grounds that they had not ordered anything. The employee then asked them to leave, which they reportedly refused to do. They were waiting for a third friend who arrived as they were being arrested.
Following public outcry and calls for boycott, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson called the arrests "reprehensible" and told ABC's "Good Morning America" that he wants a meeting with the two men so he can better understand the situation.
"I'd like to have a dialogue with them so that I can ensure that we have opportunity to really understand the situation and show some compassion and empathy for the experience they went through," he said, according to CNN. "Finally as we're working to solve this, I'd like to invite them to join me in finding a constructive way to solve this issue."
Johnson said that the staff would get more training on "unconscious bias."
Was the arrest a result of racial profiling? Many on social media have protested the coffee giant with #BoycottStarbucks and demonstrators have gathered at the store in which the arrest happened.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said that he was "heartbroken" by the arrest and said the city's Commission on Human Relations will examine Starbucks' policies and bias training, according to USA Today. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said that the officer involved didn't want to make the controversial arrest, according to ABC6.
"The whole thing is unfortunate. Wish it hadn't happened from start to finish," Ross said. "Obviously, there are parts of it that are still under investigation...For now, again, it's just very unfortunate. I can tell you that that police officer did not want to have to make an arrest in that incident. The whole thing, we just wish it didn't happen." But Ross also defended them in a video statement on Facebook, saying they did "absolutely nothing wrong" and "followed policy...were professional in all their dealings with these gentlemen, and instead they got the opposite back."
The men arrested have agreed to meet with Johnson, according to Reggie Borges, Starbucks’ senior manager of global corporate communications, reports NBC News. We do not know when the meeting will happen.
Starbucks has faced backlash for similar reasons before, according to Business Insider: Three locations in Los Angeles with large homeless populations closed their bathrooms to both customers and non-customers to discourage the homeless from visiting the store, a woman was thrown out of a Starbucks because management profiled her as homeless, and Seattle activists organized a 2001 boycott linking the chain's gentrifying influence to a shooting of a black man. Business Insider also points to a book by Temple University professor Bryant Simon, "Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks." Simon, after visiting more than 400 locations, talks about how different customers receive different treatment: "To use the bolted bathrooms, you had to ask for a key. This seems to be no problem for people wearing suits and expensive ski jackets or white college professors like myself... but for the homeless and for people of color, especially unattached men, things aren't so simple and easy."
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