Officials Probe Arrest of Blacks at Phila. Starbucks

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross says officers acted appropriately when they took two men into custody for asking to use a restroom without making a purchase. Critics said the incident was racially motivated; Starbucks apologized.

Philadelphia’s mayor’s office and police department are investigating the arrest of two African-American men waiting to meet an acquaintance at a Starbucks on Thursday after a video of the incident was widely shared on social media, triggering national outrage, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Mayor Jim Kenney said the city’s Commission on Human Relations has been asked to examine Starbucks’ procedures, including whether its training includes safeguards against “implicit bias,” or unconscious stereotyping. A police spokesman said the department’s internal affairs unit is probing the incident. Police Commissioner Richard Ross said officers had acted appropriately.

The video was posted by author Melissa DePino shows at least six Philadelphia police officers taking the two men into custody. By 5 p.m. Saturday, the video had gathered nearly 4.3 million views. The two men can be seen being escorted from a table in handcuffs while a white man, real estate investor Andrew Yaffe, asks why officers were called and attempts to explain to police that the two men were waiting for him. “What did they get called for, because there were two black guys sitting here, meeting me?” Yaffe asks in the video. “What did they do?” Police responded to a 911 call reporting a disturbance. The men had refused to leave after asking to use the restroom without placing an order, which violated Starbucks policy, staff members told police. The men were detained after they refused officers’ requests to leave as well, Ross said. As the video spread, Starbucks was accused by some of tolerating racism by its staff. Many on social media asserted that the men would not have been treated similarly if they had been white. “Waiting in a Starbucks while black is a crime?” asked one tweet. Starbucks later apologized for the incident.