Starbucks has apologised to two black men arrested at a Philadelphia branch of the coffee chain. The apology is linked to an incident that has led to accusations of racial profiling by the company and police.
Mobile phone videos captured the tense moment on 12 April when at least six Philadelphia Police Department officers stood over two seated black men, asking them to leave.
A man named Andrew Yaffe arrives to tell police that the two men were waiting for him. The officer says that they were not complying and were being arrested for trespassing.
“Why would they be asked to leave?” Mr Yaffe says. “Does anybody else think this is ridiculous?” he asks people nearby. “It’s absolute discrimination,” Mr Yaffe adds. The two unidentified men are taken out in handcuffs soon after. They were released the next day with no charges filed.
One of the videos of the arrest rocketed across social media, with 4.5 million views by 14 April.
Lauren Wimmer, the attorney for the two men, told The Washington Post that her clients told a Starbucks employee that they were waiting for Mr Yaffe. Shortly after, a white female employee called the police, Ms Wimmer said.
Ms Wimmer said Mr Yaffe, who runs a real-estate development firm, said that he was there to meet the men to discuss business investment opportunities.
The two men, whom she declined to identify, were taken to a police station, fingerprinted and photographed. One officer suggested that they faced charges for “defiant trespassing”, Ms Wimmer said. They were held for nearly nine hours before they were released after prosecutors said they would not pursue charges.
Benjamin Waxman, a spokesperson for Philadelphia district attorney Larry Krasner, said the office decided that there “wasn’t sufficient evidence to charge [the men] with a crime”.
Why this never happens to white people?
Melissa DePino, who tweeted a video of the incident, said: “@Starbucks The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing.”
In a statement on Twitter, Starbucks apologised to the two men and said it was “disappointed this led to an arrest”.