Starbucks has issued an apology after a viral video showed two black men being arrested for refusing to leave when a store employee denied them access to the restroom.
According to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, a Starbucks employee called 911 Thursday to report the two for “trespassing.” The employee told officers that the two men came in and asked to use the restroom but were not allowed to do so because they hadn’t purchased anything, which Ross said is company policy.
@Starbucks The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing.
— Melissa DePino (@missydepino) 9:12 PM – Apr 12, 2018
After police arrived, Ross said they asked the men to leave three times but they refused. They were arrested but ultimately released after the company decided not to pursue charges.
The video shows officers handcuffing the two while another man is overheard saying he was meeting the men, calling the arrest “ridiculous.”
Facing major backlash, Starbucks issued an apology on Twitter Saturday morning.
We apologize to the two individuals and our customers for what took place at our Philadelphia store on Thursday.
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) 4:59 PM – Apr 14, 2018
The incident prompted accusations of racism, but Ross quickly dismissed claims of wrongdoing by the officers.
“As an African-American male, I am very aware of implicit bias; we are committed to fair and unbiased policing,” he said. But he added, “If a business calls and they say that ‘someone is here that I no longer wish to be in my business,'” the officers have “a legal obligation to carry out their duties and they did just that.”
He said the officers “did absolutely nothing wrong” and were professional in their conduct toward the individuals but “got the opposite back.”
The mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, has since ordered the city’s Commission on Human Relations to review Starbucks’ policy.