Tensions are stirring and trouble is brewing in Philadelphia after two black men were arrested at a Starbucks on April 12.
The manager of a local Starbucks refused to allow the two men to use the rest room as they had not purchased anything. The manager then asked the men to leave the store and when they refused, stating they were waiting for a friend, the manager called the police and reported that the men were trespassing.
When the police arrived they too asked the two men to leave the store and when they refused the police arrested the men without incident, other than a store customer recording the arrest for social media and a chorus of irate customers shouting at the police officers. The two men were belligerent. They reportedly cursed the store manager and they insulted the responding police officers, telling them they didn’t know the law and scoffed at their salaries
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, helmed by Larry Krasner, a notorious anti-cop and radical DA, refused to charge the men and they were released some hours later. By then the video of the arrest went viral, as they say. Millions have viewed the short video of the arrest and the two men have now been proclaimed as racial victims.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross quickly put out his own live Facebook video in which he explained the incident. He originally stated emphatically that his officers did nothing wrong.
“They did what they were supposed to do, they were professional in all their dealings with these gentlemen and instead, they got the opposite back,” Commissioner Ross said in his video. “I will say that as an African American man, I am very aware of implicit bias. We are committed to fair and unbiased policing and anything less than that will not be tolerated in this department.”
But Commissioner Ross soon caved and the two men later received an apology from him. “I should have said the officers acted within the scope of the law, and not that they didn’t do anything wrong.” He said he failed miserably in addressing the arrests and the department was working on a new policy to address these kinds of situations.
He joined the chorus of other politically correct Philadelphia politicians who decried the arrests, such as liberal Mayor Jim Kenney, who wrote that he was “heartbroken” over the incident.
Starbucks, a self-proclaimed progressive company with a social agenda beyond selling over-priced coffee and muffins, was no doubt mortified that they were involved in what some are calling a racial-motivated incident. There has been an organized protest outside of the Philadelphia store and the company probably fears national protests and an organized boycott, so Kevin Johnson, the Starbucks CEO, was quick to post an apology.
“Dear Starbucks Partners and Customers: By now, you may be aware of a disheartening situation in one of our Philadelphia-area stores this past Thursday that led to a reprehensible outcome,” Mr. Johnson wrote in a statement. “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.”
On April 17 Starbucks announced it will be closing its more than 8,000 company-owned stores in the U.S. on the afternoon of May 29 to conduct “racial-bias education” geared toward preventing discrimination in their stores. The company said the training will be given to nearly 175,000 employees (whom Starbucks calls “partners”). The training, according to Starbucks, is designed to “address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome.”
Frankly, this was not much of an incident compared to some of the police action I’ve witnessed over the years while out on ride-a-longs with Philly cops. The police are often called to remove people who trespass on private property and most of these calls are resolved by the cops without incident or arrests. Many stores and restaurants don’t allow non-customers to use their rest rooms, as street people and drug addicts will use the rest rooms for nefarious reasons. This scares away the paying customers.
The trespassers usually obey the cops’ command to simply “move along.” Some managers have told the police afterward that they feared the man or woman was about to turn violent, which is why they called the police. And it’s not always a racial matter, as many of the people the cops deal with are white.
This whole brouhaha (or should we call it a brewhaha?) could have been avoided if only one of the two men had simply bought a cup of coffee.
• Paul Davis is a writer who covers crime, espionage and terrorism.