Watch CBS News

Starbucks arrests spark outrage: "None of the white customers were asked to leave"

Outrage over black men's arrest at Starbucks
Starbucks responds after outrage over black men's arrest 03:13

The CEO of Starbucks said he wants to apologize personally to two black men after video of their arrest in a Philadelphia coffee shop spurred outrage. Police said a Starbucks manager called 911 Thursday because the men refused to leave after trying to use the store's restroom without making a purchase. They were arrested for alleged trespassing. Those two men claim they were in Starbucks for a business meeting and were waiting for someone.

Attorney Stewart Cohen, who represents the two men, said this was a clear case of racial profiling.

"When I walk in and I don't order anything and I'm dressed like this, no manager is calling the police on me," Cohen told CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller.
"If they were white, would this have happened?" Miller asked.

"None of the white customers were asked to leave, and they were there a lot longer than those young men who were just there for a few minutes," Cohen said.

Cell phone video shows two black men staying calm in their seats as officers repeatedly ordered them to leave. A third potential business partner arrives a few minutes later and offers to move their meeting somewhere else – but by then it was too late.
"They're not free to leave. We're done. We're done with that. We asked them to leave the first time," one police officer could be heard saying.

"That's absolutely discrimination!" one witness said, adding, "They didn't do anything. I saw the entire thing."

Starbucks often touts its initiatives on race and diversity, but now it's under pressure from activists and protesters gathering outside the Philadelphia store for a second day in a row. Activists accused both Starbucks and Philadelphia police of racism.

"We'll work very hard to ensure that we evaluate our training," said Camille Hymes, a Starbucks regional vice president.

In a statement, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson called the arrests "reprehensible." "Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did," he said.
Philadelphia police commissioner Richard Ross defended the officers, saying, "These officers did absolutely nothing wrong."

"It is important to emphasize and underscore that these officers had legal standing to make this arrest," Ross said.
Author Melissa DePino tweeted out one of the videos because she was upset by how the men were treated.
"People who I know in my everyday life have said things like, 'I can't believe that really happens!'" DePino said. "I want people to listen to people who experience it and to understand that it's real."

The two men were released after Starbucks decided not to pursue charges. Their attorney tells us they are willing to meet face-to-face with the Starbucks CEO. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has called on the city's human relations commission to investigate.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.