Starbucks CEO apologies amid racial profiling accusations

Published: 16 April 2018 Image credit: Reuters/Andrew Kelly

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Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson, has apologised over an incident inside a Philadelphia coffee shop over the weekend, where two black men were arrested for “trespassing”, sparking accusations of racial profiling.

In a statement, Mr Johnson offered “our deepest apologies” to both men after the “reprehensible” incident, promising the company would undertake a thorough investigation.

He said the company would be reviewing their practices and stood firmly against discrimination and racial profiling.

"Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome — the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong.

Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did,” he said.

Mr Johnson also added that a video of the incident which was filmed by a customer inside the store and later uploaded to social media, was "very hard to watch," and the actions taken were not representative of Starbucks mission and values.

The video, which has been viewed more than 8 million times online, shows both men handcuffed and escorted from the premises by six police officers.

In the footage other patrons are heard telling officers the pair were doing nothing wrong, with some claiming they were targeted merely because of their race.

The video has fuelled backlash over the incident which drew responses from Philadelphia's mayor and the city's police commissioner.

In a statement the police commissioner, Richard Ross, defended the arrest of both men saying his officers “did nothing wrong.”

Mr Ross said they acted after an employee placed a 911 call to report two men who were "trespassing."

When the officers arrived at the scene, they were allegedly told the men had asked to use the restroom but were denied because they hadn't bought anything.

Both men allegedly refused to leave after being asked.

According to reports, the pair were waiting for a friend, Andrew Yaffe, who runs a real estate development firm.

In the video, Mr Yaffe can be heard telling police that the two men were waiting for him.

Mr Yaffe can also be heard saying, "Why would they be asked to leave? Does anybody else think this is ridiculous? It's absolute discrimination."

Both men were later released “because of lack of evidence” that they had committed a crime.

Mr Ross said that as an African-American man he was acutely aware of implicit bias and that his team were committed to fair and unbiased policing.

He said that anything less would not be tolerated.

On Thursday, demonstrators gathered outside the Philadelphia store where both men were arrested to protest the incident and called for the sacking of the store manager.

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Demonstrators outside the Starbucks store where two black men were arrested by police officers. Image credit: Reuters via Twitter/@JillianPHL 

The group was heard chanting, “I am somebody, and I demand equality now.”

Reverend Jeffrey Jordan, who led the group, told reporters that "this country was built on the backs of black and brown people and now Starbucks is going to treat us like we're second-class.”

"It is a shame that in the year 2018, we're still putting up with this mess."