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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Demonstrators occupy the Starbucks in Philadelphia on Monday that has become the center of protests after two black men were arrested Thursday when employees called 911, saying they were trespassing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 1:00 am

Arrests damage Starbucks' image

Activists continue to gather at Philly shop

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA – Starbucks wants to add training for store managers on “unconscious bias,” CEO Kevin Johnson said Monday, as activists held more protests at a Philadelphia store where two black men were arrested Thursday when employees said they were trespassing.

Johnson, who has called the arrests “reprehensible,” arrived in Philadelphia this weekend after video of the arrests gained traction online. He said he hopes to meet with the two men in the next couple of days and apologize to them personally.

“I'd like to have a dialogue with them and the opportunity to listen to them with compassion and empathy through the experience they went through,” said Johnson, who has been CEO about a year. Stewart Cohen, the lawyer for the two men, said he hopes “something productive for the community” can come out of their meeting with the company.

The incident is a major blow to Starbucks' image, since the company has promoted its coffee shops as neighborhood hangouts where anyone is welcome. After a video of the arrests spread online, the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks trended on Twitter.

And on Monday, about two dozen protesters took over the Philadelphia shop, chanting slogans like, “A whole lot of racism, a whole lot of crap, Starbucks coffee is anti-black.” A Starbucks regional vice president who attempted to talk to the protesters was shouted down.

“We don't want this Starbucks to make any money today. That's our goal,” said Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, one of the protest's organizers and co-founder of the Black and Brown Workers Collective.

Over the weekend, demonstrators called for the firing of the employee who contacted police. Starbucks did not immediately respond to a request to confirm a report that the manager who called police had left the company.

Officials have said police officers were told the men had asked to use the coffee shop's restroom but were denied because they hadn't bought anything and they refused to leave.

Video shows several police talking quietly with two black men seated at a table. After a few minutes, officers handcuff the men and lead them outside as other customers say they weren't doing anything wrong.

A white man identified as real estate developer Andrew Yaffe arrives and tells the officers the two men were waiting for him. An officer says the men were not complying and were being arrested for trespassing.

“Why would they be asked to leave?” Yaffe says. “Does anybody else think this is ridiculous? It's absolute discrimination.”