After Arrest Of 2 Black Men, Protesters Rally Outside Philly Starbucks

19 hours ago
Originally published on April 16, 2018 9:13 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Protests are expected outside a Starbucks in Philadelphia this morning. A lot of people are angry about the arrest of two black men who were at this particular Starbucks, waiting for friends to show up. Video of the incident was seen millions of times over the weekend. In it, you see these two men reacting calmly as they are handcuffed and taken away, while onlookers speak out on their behalf.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Well, what did they do? What did they do? Someone tell me what they did?

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Calm down.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: They didn't do anything. I saw the entire thing.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: They did nothing.

MARTIN: Police say the men were arrested after they were asked to leave and then refused. There's been a whole lot of backlash, clearly, against Starbucks as a result. Now the company's CEO says he wants to apologize to the men face-to-face. Protesters held a rally outside the Starbucks yesterday where it all happened and briefly occupied the store. Here's NPR's Jeff Brady.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: It happened quickly. One minute, about a hundred protesters were holding a rally outside.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Boycott Starbucks, boycott Starbucks, boycott Starbucks.

BRADY: And the next minute, they were streaming inside.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

ASA KHALIF: (Chanting) 'Cause we are the people.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) We are the people.

KHALIF: (Chanting) The mighty, mighty people.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) The mighty, mighty people.

BRADY: They demanded Starbucks fire the store manager who called police last Thursday.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Shouting) Let us see you.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: (Shouting over megaphone) We have the regional vice president here of Starbucks.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Shouting) You owe us respect and (unintelligible). Let us see you.

BRADY: Starbucks regional vice president for the mid-Atlantic, Camille Hymes, tried to have a conversation with the crowd, saying the company takes responsibility, and the manager was put in a position where she didn't successfully resolve the conflict with the two men.

CAMILLE HYMES: We are deeply regretful for the incident that occurred. It escalated beyond what we ever imagined.

BRADY: Hymes said Starbucks will evaluate how it trains employees around issues like racism and bias.

HYMES: We know that we have work to do. We have worked very closely with the community here in Philadelphia. It literally breaks my heart. We work with so many communities to uplift the community, to support those that are at risk, our veterans, our refugees.

BRADY: But that did not satisfy the protesters. Local organizer Asa Khalif continued to call for the manager's firing and sanctions for the officers who arrested the men.

KHALIF: And this is for Commissioner Ross. We're dealing with Starbucks, but we're going to deal with you and your police force.

(APPLAUSE)

KHALIF: We want every last one of those officers fired for what they did to those black brothers.

BRADY: Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross was criticized by some local activists after he released a video on Facebook defending the officers involved in the arrest.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

RICHARD ROSS: As an African-American male, I am very aware of implicit bias.

BRADY: Ross says his department does a lot of training about racism. And he says anything that falls short of fair and unbiased policing won't be tolerated. Ross says in this case, officers had legal standing to make the arrest. He says they were called to the scene because Starbucks employees said the men were trespassing.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

ROSS: These officers did absolutely nothing wrong. They followed policy. 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.

BRADY: Given decades of racism and abuse of force allegations against the Philadelphia Police, that statement only seemed to upset local activists even more. After protests this weekend, more demonstrations are planned this morning. Organizers say the goal is to shut down the Starbucks where the two men were arrested. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.