Starbucks CEO in Philadelphia as protests resume at Center City Starbucks where two black men were arrested
CEO Kevin Johnson called the viral video of two black men arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks "very hard to watch." The company has begun an investigation of its practices, he said.
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is in Philadelphia to, as he put it in an online statement, "offer a face-to-face apology" to two African American men who were arrested in a Center City Starbucks last week.
In addition to the two men, Johnson is set to meet with Mayor Kenney and Police Commissioner Richard Ross and other community leaders Monday, a spokeswoman for the Seattle-based company said.
Where those meetings will take place has not yet been disclosed
In an interview on Good Morning America, Johnson called the incident "reprehensible" and apologized.
Protests in the meantime resumed at the Starbucks store at 18th and Spruce Streets, where the two men were arrested Thursday. Dozens of protesters occupied the store for a brief time Sunday.
On Monday morning, about 40 protesters, including City Councilmember Helen Gym, filled the Starbucks for noisy protest as four police officers watched from the rear of the store.
"Anti-blackness anywhere is anti-blackness everywhere, was one of their chants.
>>READ MORE: Latest updates on the Starbucks arrests
The men had been sitting at a table waiting for an acquaintance but had not purchased anything, violating a company policy, Ross had said Saturday in a video posted on Facebook. When they were asked to leave and refused, a store manager called police. Police took the men into custody in an encounter that was captured on video that went viral over the weekend, sparking national outrage, even among the most faithful Starbucks customers.
Late Saturday night, Johnson said in an online statement that he wanted to meet with the men who were arrested to "offer a face-to-face apology" for the "reprehensible outcome."
The men were handcuffed and arrested – though no charges were filed against them.
Protesters Sunday demanded the firing of the store manager who had called police and every Philadelphia police officer who participated in the arrest. About 75 people and at least two dozen uniformed officers attended the noon protest, organized by Black Lives Matter activist Asa Khalif.
Halfway through the demonstration that began outside, Khalif led protesters into the store as confused customers looked on.
"Today, today this space is now secure, secured by the people," Khalif yelled through a bullhorn once inside.
He then said to the crowd: "Should we ask the racist manager to come out?"
"Come out, come out wherever you are," one protester said.
Starbucks regional vice president Camille Hymes was on location and spoke with Khalif and the crowd. She said the company "deeply regrets" the events that occurred but said the blame lies with Starbucks' policies and not with the store's manager.
"I know the question has come up in terms of whether or not the manager should be fired, and we take full responsibility," Hymes said. "We put her in a position that did not allow her to be set up for success – or those two men."
Protesters remained inside the store for about 10 minutes before peacefully leaving and continuing their rally outside. Among the demonstrators was Dell Merriwether, 60, of Center City, who held up an anti-Starbucks sign while drinking a cup of Wawa coffee.
"I feel it was an overreaction of the police. They could have bought the guys a cup of coffee [instead of arresting them] and we wouldn't be here," Merriwether said. "There's injustice throughout the country, but to see it at home is hard."
Melissa DePino, who posted the video of the men's arrest, which has been viewed more than nine million times, also attended Sunday's protest.
"It's great, but I want it to be more," she said of the video, which was shot by another customer. "I hope it's more. I want it to keep going."
Monday's protest is scheduled for 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., according to a Facebook event page titled "Shut Down Starbucks" hosted by Philly REAL Justice and the Black & Brown Workers Cooperative. At least 180 people have already indicated they will attend and more than 1,000 have shown interest.
Lauren Wimmer, an attorney for the men who were arrested, did not respond to a request for comment Sunday. The men have not been publicly identified and Wimmer previously declined to provide their names.
Khalif said he doesn't accept Johnson's apology and called Starbucks' response "lukewarm" and "just about saving face." Khalif brought sage to the protest, which he and other activists used to smudge the outside of the Starbucks "to reclaim this space because it is tainted with racism."
Separate investigations into the episode are underway by the mayor's office and the Philadelphia Police Department. Starbucks has launched its own investigation into its practices that led to this "bad outcome," Johnson said in his statement.
"We have immediately begun a thorough investigation of our practices," he wrote. "In addition to our own review, we will work with outside experts and community leaders to understand and adopt best practices."
In a video posted to Facebook on Saturday, Ross, the police commissioner, said officers responded to a 911 call regarding a disturbance at the store about 4:40 p.m. Thursday, and were told the men had violated Starbucks policy by occupying a table without making a purchase.
In his statement, Johnson said of his company's policy: "Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome – the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong. Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did."
Video of the episode shows at least six police officers responding to the Starbucks. They are seen putting the men in handcuffs and taking them into custody without resistance. Ross said that officers had asked the men to leave three times but that they refused and were subsequently detained.
"These officers did absolutely nothing wrong," Ross said.
A white man in the video who has been identified as Andrew Yaffe, a Philadelphia real estate investor, can be seen questioning an officer in the coffee shop about the arrest and says the men were waiting to meet him.
"What did they get called for, because there were two black guys sitting here, meeting me?" Yaffe asks in the video. "What did they do?"
The men were held in custody until 12:30 a.m. Friday, Wimmer said Saturday. Ross said they were released when authorities learned Starbucks was "no longer interested in prosecuting."
Starbucks' Johnson called the video "very hard to watch" and said "the actions in it are not representative of our Starbucks Mission and Values."
He said he will be joining Hymes, the regional vice president, "on the ground in Philadelphia" to speak with partners, customers, community leaders and police.
"Most importantly, I hope to meet personally with the two men who were arrested to offer a face-to-face apology," Johnson wrote in his statement.