Protests Continue At Philadelphia Starbucks

Apr 17, 2018
Originally published on April 17, 2018 7:05 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's meet some of the protesters who drove Starbucks to promise change. A coffee shop in Philadelphia has been the site of daily protests following an incident last week. Two African-American men were arrested for refusing to leave the store while waiting for a friend to arrive. Peter Crimmins reports from WHYY in Philadelphia.

PETER CRIMMINS, BYLINE: Even a flood-warning rainstorm at 7 in the morning did not deter protesters from occupying a Starbucks store in the toney Philadelphia neighborhood of Rittenhouse Square. Guillermo Borges (ph) lives nearby.

GUILLERMO BORGES: This has got to stop, you know, this kind of behavior, both through policy at the police department, the way they came and the show of force, and also the policy of the company. It's just not acceptable.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: What do we want?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Liberation.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: When do we want it?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Now.

CRIMMINS: For the next three hours, a group of about 60 people shut down the coffee shop, asking that the store manager and the police officers be fired, and, more importantly to the organizers, to not allow the store to do business.

KIERA LAMMERS: The employees didn't have enough discernment to just have a conversation with these people. The police didn't have the discernment to come here and say these people were racially profiled.

CRIMMINS: That is Kiera Lammers (ph), one of the protesters who says these two levels of racial profiling point to a larger problem than this particular incident.

LAMMERS: There's no reason why the police couldn't have the discernment here to say, this is not what we think it is, somebody called here and made a bad call, and we're not going to follow through with it.

CRIMMINS: The CEO of Starbucks, Kevin Johnson, has publicly apologized, saying the company's, quote, "practices and training led to this bad outcome." He was in Philadelphia on Monday to personally meet with the two men who were arrested for not buying anything. They said they were waiting for a third person to arrive. Johnson met with the mayor of Philadelphia about how to rectify the situation.

KEVIN JOHNSON: We had a very constructive meeting with the mayor, the police commissioner. And we really appreciate the transparency and the spirit with which we are working together.

CRIMMINS: The mayor of Philadelphia Jim Kenney said they talked about collecting data about complaints across all Starbucks stores, including those owned by Starbucks and those franchised to individual proprietors. They want to see if there are any patterns of unconscious bias. Kenney said he was disturbed and heartbroken about the arrest of the two black men, but because the police were responding to a call of trespassing by a private business, the officers technically did nothing wrong.

JIM KENNEY: It's a very complicated set of circumstances. Library is a public space, a rec center is a public space. Your own home's kitchen is not a public space, but a private business that opens itself up to the public is kind of - it's, like, a quasi-public space.

CRIMMINS: Kenney said he was going over police procedures with his police commissioner to see if there's any way to avoid such incidents in the future. I'm Peter Crimmins in Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.