Starbucks has some explaining to do after video surfaced on social media showing Philadelphia police officers arresting two Black men.
A second video, apparently taken minutes earlier and leading up to the arrest, shows a third man, Alan Yaffe, entering the frame and questioning why the police are standing over the men. One officer says they are “trespassing,” and adds they had been asked to leave.
“Why would they be asked to leave?” Yaffe asks, adding that the men were waiting for him. “I wanted to get coffee for two black guys sitting and meeting with me,” he tells the officer. “Does anybody else think this is ridiculous?” he asks other patrons in the shop. A woman agrees. “It’s absolute discrimination,” Yaffe adds. He says he and the men can go elsewhere to meet. An officer says it’s too late for that, because the two sitting men had previously declined to leave. The video ends as the officers arrest the men and leading them out of the coffee shop.
Yaffe, founder and president of AY Industries, a real estate development, investment and management firm, called attorney Lauren Wimmer about the incident. “He was meeting with the two gentlemen at the Starbucks to discuss business,” Wimmer said Saturday, identifying Yaffe as a friend. “These two guys are business professionals in commercial real estate.”
Wimmer says the men were “arrested, fingerprinted and photographed” by police there around 5:30 p.m. Thursday. She said authorities were considering a charge of “defiant trespass.” Wimmer, representing both men pro bono, contacted authorities. She added, “I received a call at 12:30 a.m. (Friday) from the D.A.’s office that they were letting them go.” She would not disclose their identities.
They were released “because of lack of evidence” that a crime had been committed, said Benjamin Waxman, a spokesman for District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office. He declined further comment, noting the police have said they are investigating the incident.
The backlash on social media was swift with people calling for the coffee chain to address this incident using the hashtag #boycottstarbucks.
Starbucks posted a message on social media in response:
We’re reviewing the incident with our partners, law enforcement and customers to determine what took place and led to this unfortunate result.
On friday, the police issued a statement.
“The entire incident, including the actions of the responding officers, is under internal investigation. Once we gather all the facts, we will comment further.”