Starbucks became the center of controversy after two black men were arrested at one of its Philadelphia stores, sparking cries of racism, public apologies, and an internet meme.
The incident — captured on video and widely shared on Twitter by @MissyDePino — shows the two men taken away in handcuffs on Thursday after refusing to leave the store at 18th and Spruce Streets because they hadn't purchased anything. They were meeting real estate investor Andrew Yaffe, who is seen in the video attempting to get authorities to explain what exactly the men had done wrong. The manager who called the police has left the store pending an investigation, according to the company.
There have been days of protests outside the location, with Sunday's protest led by Asa Khalif, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist in Philadelphia. An image of Khalif, pictured with a bullhorn inside the store across from a stoic employee, taken by Inquirer and Daily News photographer Michael Bryant, has been widely circulated on social media, often with snarky commentary.
Bryant, a staff photographer for more than three decades and 2007 Pulitzer Prize finalist, wanted to clear up a few rumors. Here are the facts surrounding the viral image:
When it was taken: The picture was taken around 12:30 p.m. Sunday, when Khalif announced that the crowd of protesters would be moving inside the store. The store was open for business at the time, and one or two customers inside decided to leave. "Today, this space is now secure, secured by the people," Khalif said through the bullhorn inside the store.
What was happening: Bryant said his wide-angle lens makes it look as though Khalif is yelling directly at the employee, but that's not the case. Khalif addressed the entire crowd and spoke with Starbucks regional vice president Camille Hymes during the protest. Bryant said the event was rather quiet; conversations were held. There was no screaming or yelling.
What the photographer was thinking: "When I shot the photograph, I did not think at all about Zack [the Starbucks employee] being white," he said. "I thought of him being a corporate representative of Starbucks. [It had] nothing to do with his race."
Who the Starbucks worker is: The Starbucks employee is named Zack, according to his apron. Some on social media have falsely identified Zack as the manager who placed the 911 call resulting in the arrest of the two men. Zack was not that manager, a spokesperson for Starbucks confirmed Tuesday.
What Bryant says about the viral photo: "To me, [the photo] is basically what America's about — it's a chance to right a wrong," Bryant said. "If you have a problem with something, you go to the corporation or person or whatever and basically state your opinion."
The memes: Here are some of the images that have been circulating on social media: