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Arrest of two black men at Philadelphia Starbucks was 'reprehensible,' CEO Kevin Johnson says

Johnson's apology comes as more protests are planned at the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce Streets.

Protesters gather outside Starbucks at 18th and Spruce Streets on Monday.
Protesters gather outside Starbucks at 18th and Spruce Streets on Monday.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson didn't mince words during an appearance on Good Morning America on Monday morning, calling out the employees and the policy that led to the arrest of two black men waiting to meet an acquaintance at a Center City Starbucks on Thursday.

"The circumstances surrounding the incident and the outcome in our store on Thursday were reprehensible. They were wrong," Johnson said. "For that, I personally apologize to the two gentlemen that visited out store."

>>READ MORE: Starbucks manager who called police has left company in 'mutual' decision

Johnson said some of the coffee chain's locations have slightly different guidelines for how they handle certain situations. Employees at the Philadelphia Starbucks had guidelines outlining scenarios where calling the police would be appropriate, such as threats and disturbances in the store, Johnson said.

"In this case, none of that occurred. It was completely inappropriate to engage the police," Johnson said, adding that there will be more training in the future for store managers around "unconscious bias."

Johnson also said he has spoken to the representatives of the two men, and hopes to meet with them face-to-face to personally apologize for the incident and begin a dialogue to start a constructive way to solve this issue.

>>READ MORE: Latest updates on the Starbucks controversy

Johnson is in Philadelphia as about 40 protesters turned out in the rain at the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce Streets Monday morning, where two African American men were arrested Thursday. The two men were sitting at a table waiting for a friend but didn't make any purchases. When they refused to leave, a store manager called police, who arrested both men and led them out of the store in handcuffs. No charges were filed.

>>READ MORE: Need to catch up on the Starbucks arrests? Here's what happened

The arrests, which sparked outrage nationwide, were posted to Twitter by Philadelphia-based author Melissa DePino, in a video that has since been viewed nearly 10 million times.

"They did not raise their voices; they were not confrontational," DePino told the Inquirer and Daily News on Saturday.  Police "put them in handcuffs and essentially perp-walked them out of the store."

A police spokesman said Sunday the incident was being probed by the department's internal affairs unit. Police Commissioner Richard Ross said his officers acted appropriately.

>>READ MORE: Starbucks arrests put Philadelphia police in national spotlight

"The police did not just happen upon this event — they did not just walk into Starbucks to get a coffee," Ross said in a video posted to Facebook on Saturday. "They were called there, for a service, and that service had to do with quelling a disturbance, a disturbance that had to do with trespassing. These officers did absolutely nothing wrong."

Ross said the two men were released because Starbucks "no longer was interested in prosecuting." He later said the department would review its policies in dealing with such a situation in the future.

Staff writer Cassie Owens contributed to this report.