Starbucks CEO Forced To Apologize After Two Innocent Men Arrested In Philly Store

Shocking video of racially charged incident went viral on Saturday.

A Starbucks cup on a table at a Starbucks cafe.
Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson was forced to issue an emphatic apology late Saturday after a shocking video of a racially-tinged incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks location went viral.

The video, posted to Twitter by a woman sitting in the shop, shows police speaking to — and then arresting — two black men that the woman says were simply sitting in the Starbucks waiting for a third member of their party before ordering coffee.

The woman, author Melissa DePino, told media that both men were sitting at a table for less than 15 minutes before store employees called the cops. Both men left the store peacefully, but in handcuffs. Their friend, DePino reported, showed up around the same time the police did.

The men were finally released from custody hours later, according to DePino, who added that the pair were real estate brokers who were there for a friendly meeting. DePino says there is no more to the story, even though, she says, a number of people have asked to elaborate on how the men were dressed, and how they were acting, on the presumption that two black men could not have been arrested for simply sitting in a Starbucks.

DePino's account was borne out by other witnesses, who spoke to local news. "The video, in this case, essentially speaks for itself," another woman told CBS Philadelphia. "These guys were doing what people do every day, they were having a meeting and they were undoubtedly singled out because of their race."

The same woman told reporters that she tried to question the police as they led the men outside.

Initially, Starbucks responded to DePino's video by saying they were "investigating" the incident.

But that investigation quickly turned into an apology. In a statement released late Saturday, Johnson expressed his "deepest apologies" for the incident.

I’m writing this evening to convey three things:

First, to once again express our deepest apologies to the two men who were arrested with a goal of doing whatever we can to make things right. Second, to let you know of our plans to investigate the pertinent facts and make any necessary changes to our practices that would help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again. And third, to reassure you that Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling.

Johnson also said that he wanted to meet with the two men face-to-face.

Philadelphia's police commissioner said that his officers were doing "nothing wrong," and merely following the direction of Starbucks employees who said the men were trespassing and claimed both men had asked to use the bathroom but hadn't purchased a drink.

Johnson's apology is being well-received, but may progressives and fans of Starbucks are planning an all-out boycott of the coffee chain until more significant measures are taken. What those "significant measures" might be they have not specified.

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