Arrest of two black men in Starbucks sparks protests in Philadelphia

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In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News and in an appearance on "Good Morning America" from Philadelphia, Johnson said he hopes to meet with the men face-to-face to personally apologize for the incident and to ensure it is not repeated in the future. After their arrests, the two men were released early Friday morning.

"In watching the video, it was painful", said Johnson, who arrived in Philadelphia early Monday. "What happened and the way it escalated and the outcome is nothing but reprehensible". "The whole thing, we just wish it didn't happen".

He also noted that some stores have guidelines for dealing with possible trouble but in this case the guidelines were ambiguous. In this particular case, those were ambiguous, he said. Police called to the scene asked the non-customers to leave three times, according to police. "There are instances where calling the police would be an appropriate action: if there is a threat, a disturbance or something creating a risky situation, then that is an appropriate place for one of our store partners to call the police. This situation had none of that and these two gentlemen did not deserve what unfolded".

He added that Starbucks would conduct training to prevent unconscious bias.

Many commenters on Twitter said Thursday's incident was reminiscent of the Sixties' lunch counter sit-ins that challenged Jim Crow laws, which were prohibited with passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. "There are very few African-American men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store", he said after the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Police haven't released the names of the men who were arrested. A Starbucks regional vice president who attempted to talk to the protesters was shouted down.

"We have the right to be free. We are going to learn from this and we will be better for it".

But, chanting "anti-blackness anywhere is anti-blackness everywhere" and singing an impromptu protest song adapted from the "Black Panther" soundtrack, the demonstrators insisted this is no tempest in a coffee cup. "We will hit them where it hurts and that's in their pockets", Abdul-Ali Muhammad of the Black and Brown Workers Cooperative said. They refused and were led away in handcuffs. They claim they were there for a business meeting, and were waiting for someone. Protesters were in front of the store Monday, and some of the protestors went inside the store when heavy rains started.

Representatives for the two men could not immediately be reached. They also want all police officers to wear body cameras within a year.

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The Rev. Mark Tyler, pastor at Mother Bethel AME Church, said the reason for the quick and fierce backlash is this: "It demonstrates that if you're black, there's nobody that's safe".

Some of the signs included the hashtag #BLM for Black Lives Matter, while others read, "Coffee is black".

The men had been sitting at a table waiting for an acquaintance Thursday, but had not purchased anything.

One of the videos of the arrest rocketed across social media, with more than 9 million views. The manager, under the impression they were trespassing, had the men arrested.

A cell phone video that surfaced online of two Black men being arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks last week has incited outrage in the Black community.

Johnson is expected to meet with the two men, the company said, though it's not clear when. He says the employee who called police should have been fired.

He said officers are often called to businesses when someone who is asked to leave but does not. But Starbucks broke a more important rule: By demonizing two people based on their race, it left democracy out of the public space.

"You arrested them because they didn't buy a coffee". That person arrived at the store as they were being arrested. Mial, 53, said she was "devastated" by the arrests and urged the small crowd not to the "choose the wrong enemy". "We know this incident was not the first".

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