Using a Starbucks location as a meeting place without patronage is apparently against the law. Whether it's a store policy or not, the rule was enforced when two African American customers were unnecessarily arrested inside a Philadelphia Starbucks location.
Melissa DePino was a customer at the time the two individuals were taken into custody for no apparent reason. She posted the video of the incident on Twitter and what followed was a national outcry resulting in a protest outside the location the following day.
"The police were called because these men hadn't ordered anything," DePino wrote in a tweet from April 12.
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.
@Starbucks The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show… https://t.co/gQ6HFw3fYZ— Melissa DePino (@Melissa DePino) 1523567534.0
Her post went viral with over 4.3 million views by Saturday.
In the video, six Philadelphia police officers are seen handcuffing the compliant men while the person they were waiting for, who turned out to be real estate investor and family friend, Andrew Yaffe, asked an officer "What did they get called for, because there are two black guys sitting here meeting me? What did they do? What did they do?"
A woman's voice off-screen is heard replying, "They didn't do anything. I saw the entire thing. They didn't do anything."
According to Starbucks employees, the gentlemen asked if they could use the public restroom, but were told it was meant for paying customers only. When they were turned away twice, the men refused to leave, which prompted a phone call to local authorities.
@missydepino @Zakuani11 @Starbucks Honestly, this really pisses me off. I’ve been going to afternoon meetings at St… https://t.co/Nnf7D9FNwb— Justin Bukoski (@Justin Bukoski) 1523664680.0
@missydepino @Zakuani11 @Starbucks The other day I was there and there was a dude (white) facedown, asleep on his l… https://t.co/bmm2kK5Xzs— Justin Bukoski (@Justin Bukoski) 1523664858.0
On Saturday, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross defended the police with a post on Facebook, saying "They did nothing wrong."
The police did not just happen upon this event — they did not just walk into Starbucks to get a coffee. They were called there, for a service, and that service had to do with quelling a disturbance, a disturbance that had to do with trespassing. These officers did absolutely nothing wrong.
They did a service that they were called to do. And if you think about it logically, that if a business calls and they say that someone is here that I no longer wish to be in my business, (officers) now have a legal obligation to carry out their duties. And they did just that.
DePino told reporters that she posted the video filmed by the woman sitting next to her in the Center City Starbucks.
They did not raise their voices; they were not confrontational. Police put them in handcuffs and essentially perp-walked them out of the store.
After the video went viral, Starbucks was accused of racism and was lambasted on social media for the arrests people said would not have happened if the men were white.
@missydepino @Imn0taaron @Starbucks This is one of those stories many black people have that a lot of non-poc REFUS… https://t.co/70hMgaCAXq— LamonTSnaps (@LamonTSnaps) 1523648705.0
The two men were taken to the police station but were later released when Starbucks insisted they didn't want to press any charges.
Starbucks issued a statement on Twitter, issuing an apology for the two black men.
We apologize to the two individuals and our customers for what took place at our Philadelphia store on Thursday. https://t.co/suUsytXHks— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks Coffee) 1523725183.0
However, the apology wasn't sufficient enough for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. He issued a statement on Saturday saying the city's Commission on Human Relations was contacted to review the company's policies and procedures "including the extent of, or need for, implicit bias training for its employees."
The Mayor was heartbroken over seeing his city featured under such appalling headlines. "Starbucks should be a place where everyone is treated the same, no matter the color of their skin," he said.
DePino posted photos of the scene outside the Starbucks location on Saturday where outraged citizens gathered to participate in a peaceful protest.
Outside the Starbucks today https://t.co/vcr9QstkRT— Melissa DePino (@Melissa DePino) 1523725295.0
Peaceful protest at @Starbucks by people of all colors. To the one aggressive man across the street arguing for his… https://t.co/EUcxfJHW0E— Melissa DePino (@Melissa DePino) 1523809341.0
The protest is growing outside the @Starbucks. The woman on the right in the red shirt is 90 years old and told a s… https://t.co/14OhjZPT4p— Melissa DePino (@Melissa DePino) 1523739265.0
There was nothing more to the story to legitimize the arrests. It's an example of the deplorable social landscape we're still living in, in 2018.
Ever since I posted this, I’ve had white strangers AND friends say “there must be something more to this story.” Th… https://t.co/Qm1mUbptfG— Melissa DePino (@Melissa DePino) 1523656308.0