Keith Griffith et al., Daily Mail, April 16, 2018
An attorney for two black men who were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks has said that race clearly played a role in the incident, video of which sparked widespread outrage.
‘I would love to hear the 911 call on this case,’ criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer told NBC Nightly News on Sunday.
‘Can you imagine the 911 call if it was “There’s two white women sitting here. One of them asked to used the bathroom and she didn’t order anything, come quick!”,’ she said.
Wimmer declined to identify the two men, who were arrested inside the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce on Thursday after refusing to leave when asked to by managers and police.
‘Two young black men, who were simply waiting to be joined by a friend, were blatantly discriminated against based on their race. Not only is this inexcusable, it’s illegal,’ Wimmer said in a statement.
Meanwhile, protests broke out outside the store on Sunday with Black Lives Matter demonstrators calling for a boycott of the chain.
Carrying signs and shouting through bullhorns, the protesters entered the store and demanded the firing of the manager who called police.
Starbucks said late Sunday that the manager at the location in question no longer worked at the store.
Wimmer took on the case pro bono after hearing about it from the man the two black men claimed they were waiting to meet, real estate investor Andrew Yaffe, she told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
‘What did they get called for, because there were two black guys sitting here meeting me?’ Yaffe is seen asking cops on video of the incident.
Yaffe is reportedly a family friend of the men who were arrested, and was meeting them to discuss some kind of real estate transaction.
Video of the incident does not show what led up to the arrests, but police say they were called by the business and told that two men had come in and asked to use the restroom.
Employees told the two men that the bathroom was for paying customers, and asked them to buy something or leave, which the men refused to do, police said.
The men refused to leave three times additional times when asked to by police, Police Commissioner Richard Ross said.
Ross, who is black, defended the arrests in a video statement on Saturday.
Ross said the officers ‘did absolutely nothing wrong’ and were professional in their conduct toward the individuals but ‘got the opposite back.’
He did not mention Yaffe, the person who said he was meeting with the men.
‘As an African American male, I am very aware of implicit bias; we are committed to fair and unbiased policing,’ Ross 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’ (officers) now have a legal obligation to carry out their duties and they did just that.’
‘Starbucks said that according to the company policy they do not allow nonpaying members or nonpaying people to come in and use the restroom. And so they then asked these two males to leave. These two males refused to leave and the police were called,’ he added.
He said that the officers on the scene called for a police supervisor to ‘avoid the situation from getting out of hand’, adding that it was a good decision.
The officers then asked the males on three different occasions ‘politely to leave the location because they were asked to leave by employees because they were trespassing’.
The men refused to budge and even insulted the officers for being low-paid city employees, the commissioner said.
He stressed that the males were not harmed in the arrest and were taken to the police district.
At the end of Ross’ statement, he acknowledged the racial tension that is surrounding the incident.
‘I will say that as an African American male I am very aware of implicit bias. We are committed to fair and unbiased policing and anything less than that will not be tolerated in this department,’ he said.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he asked the city Commission on Human Relations to examine the company’s policies and procedures ‘including the extent of, or need for, implicit bias training for its employees’.
Starbucks’ CEO Kevin Johnson expressed his ‘deepest apologies’ about the incident and plans to fly to Philadelphia to help correct the situation.
‘I hope to meet personally with the two men who were arrested to offer a face-to-face apology,’ Johnson said Saturday.
‘Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome — the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong,’ Johnson said in a statement.
‘Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did,’ he continued.