By Frederick H. Lowe, NorthStar News
Police surround Starbucks in Philadelphia
Starbucks will close more than 8,000 company-owned stores affecting 175,000 employees in the United States on May 29th to address implicit racial bias, following arrests of two black-male customers last week at its Center City store in Philadelphia.
“I’ve spent the last few days in Philadelphia with my leadership team listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to fix it,” said Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks. ” All Starbucks company-owned retail stores and corporate offices will be closed in the afternoon of Tuesda Newsy, May 29. During that time, partners (employees) will go through a training program designed to address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome.”
Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative; Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General; Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League and Heather McGhee, president of Demos, a think tank and research policy center, are assisting in developing Starbucks’ curriculum.
Johnson made his announcement after he met with two black men police arrested when the manager of a Center City, Philadelphia, Starbucks complained they wouldn’t leave the coffee shop after they weren’t allowed to use the restroom because they hadn’t purchased anything.
Spokespersons for Seattle-based Starbucks did not disclose what was discussed between the two men, who were not identified. Earlier, Johnson called the incident “reprehensible” and publicly apologized to the men involved.
Six Philadelphia police officers arrested the men Thursday afternoon for trespassing. The men were waiting to meet another man, who is white and who had scheduled a meeting with them in the Starbucks.
The arrests, which were captured on cell phone video, sparked demonstrations inside and outside the Starbucks, which is located on swanky Rittenhouse Square, and more national and international conversations over social media about the state of race in the era of President Donald Trump.
Richard Ross, Philadelphia’s police chief, who is black, defended his men, arguing they did not do anything wrong in making the arrests.
But the arrests caused hand wringing among others. The Philadelphia district attorney later released the two men because Starbucks refused to press charges. Jim Kenny, Philadelphia’s mayor, wasn’t happy about the arrests.
The woman manager who called the police has either left the store or the company, according to various news reports.
Facebook released a video showing a black man being ordered to leave a Starbucks in Torrance, California, after complaining employees gave a white make customer the numerical code to open the door of the men’s restroom before he ordered food. The black man was not given the same code. Starbucks officials said they are aware of the video.
The Rittenhouse Square arrests angered the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.
“The arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks represents another ominous signal on the increasingly dangerous environment for African Americans,” wrote Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP. “Every day people of color find themselves at the mercy of stereotypes and embedded fears of others…Racism and biases that make simply breathing while black so dangerous will not just go away without our society committing more resources to discussion, education and training on implicit bias and racism.”
“We know if two Black men in Philadelphia require six police officers to handcuff and arrest them for waiting to order coffee, then we begin to understand the mind state that allows for such overzealous and reactionary use of deadly force by those who are paid to serve and protect.
“Every day people of color find themselves at the mercy of the stereotypes and embedded fears of others. How else can we explain why 14-year-old Brennan Walker who missed his bus on his way to school would be shot at by a homeowner just outside Detroit? Or explain Saheed Vassell, a mentally-ill man in Brooklyn fired at ten times and shot dead by police officers. Or why Stephon Clark was shot at 20 times and hit 8 times, mainly in the back, by police officers in Sacramento, based on the assumption that he was the culprit responsible for breaking into cars. We are at least glad in the case of Starbucks that no one mistook a wallet for a gun.