Monday 18 June 2018

Starbucks CEO hopes to meet black men arrested in Philadelphia shop

Kevin Johnson said the arrests, carried out after an employee told police the two men were trespassing, were ‘reprehensible’.

Local Black Lives Matter activist Asa Khalif takes part in a protest in Philadelphia (AP)
Local Black Lives Matter activist Asa Khalif takes part in a protest in Philadelphia (AP)

By Kristen De Groot

The CEO of Starbucks has arrived in Philadelphia, hoping to meet two black men who were arrested when the coffee chain’s employees told police they were trespassing.

Calling their arrest “reprehensible”, Kevin Johnson told ABC’s Good Morning America: “I would like to have a dialogue with them to make sure we have the opportunity to really understand the situation and they can join me in finding constructive way to solve this issue.”

Meanwhile, about two dozen chanting protesters took over the Starbucks location in Philadelphia on Monday to protest against the arrests.

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

Just before 7.30am (12.15pm BST), the protesters moved inside and stood in front of the counter, some holding banners reading: “End Stop and Frisk,” chanting slogans like: “A whole lot of racism, a whole lot of crap, Starbucks coffee is anti-black.”

Starbucks regional vice president Camille Hymes attempted to talk to the protesters, but was shouted down.

Over the weekend, demonstrators called for the sacking of the employee who contacted police, leading to the men being arrested on Thursday.

Officials have said police officers were told the men had asked to use the shop’s toilet, but were denied because they had not bought anything. They then allegedly refused to leave.

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Protests took place outside the Philadelphia shop over the weekend (AP)

Police have not released the names of the men, who were later released after the district attorney’s office said there was no evidence a crime had been committed.

Over the weekend, Mr Johnson issued a statement saying the company is investigating its practices, working on training and will reach out to outside experts to make any needed changes that would help prevent such an occurrence from happening again.

“Creating an environment that is both safe and welcoming for everyone is paramount for every store,” he said in the statement.

“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.”

Press Association

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