Following the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks last week, activists are calling for a boycott of the coffee giant.
The two men were arrested on Thursday after employees called the authorities, reporting that the men asked to use the restroom but were denied because they hadn't bought anything. They then refused to leave, Commissioner Richard Ross said to NBC News. According to eyewitnesses, the two men were waiting for their friend to arrive before ordering — a white man who arrived just as the men were being handcuffed and escorted out. The friend later called the situation “ridiculous.”
While the viral video does not suggest any untoward violence — the screenshot above depicts a police officer escorting one of the men out seemingly willingly — it sparked outrage on social media nonetheless, making the #BoycottStarbucks hashtag trend.
The two men were released after the district attorney's office said there was lack of evidence that a crime had been committed, USA Today reports. Starbucks apologized in a statement on Saturday and CEO Kevin Johnson later called the arrests “reprehensible,” according to ABC News. Johnson plans to meet with the men soon to apologize in person.
Some are calling Johnson’s apology a little too late; on Sunday, protesters gathered outside the Starbucks where the two men were arrested,carrying loudspeakers and confronting the employees working inside, NBC News Philadelphia reports.
Camille Hymes, a Starbucks regional manager, reportedly told demonstrators, "We take full responsibility and....we put [the manager] in a position that did not allow her to be set up for success or those two men.”
Activists are calling for the store manager who called police on the two men to be fired.
Protests continued on Monday; about two dozen demonstrators gathered outside in the pouring rain, USA Today reports, before moving inside, chanting slogans like, "A whole lot of racism, a whole lot of crap, Starbucks coffee is anti-black."
"This is bigger than this one Starbucks. This is bigger than this one manager, who should be fired," one protestor reportedly said.
The incident has gained considerable support on Twitter, with supporters pledging to boycott Starbucks and calling the company out for racial profiling using the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks. This is not the first time Starbucks has gotten embroiled in a charged debate about profiling — some LA locations closed their bathrooms to all customers to keep out the homeless — and its “exclusion problem” is only growing, according to Business Insider.
One tweet visually compared the arrest scene to MLK's arrest in Montgomery, Alabama in 1958 saying "history is repeating itself for the worst [sic]." Actor, comedian, and Philadelphia native Kevin Hart also voiced his support, tweeting, “Message to the @Starbucks in Philadelphia....Our city is shining bright like a diamond right now. Please make this situation right. I repeat please make this situation right!!!!!!! Once again MAKE THIS RIGHT.”