PHILADELPHIA, U.S. - As outrage grew over the arrest of two black men who were waiting for a friend at a Starbucks in Philadelphia - demonstrators took to the streets to highlight the unfairness of the incident.
Over the weekend, Starbucks issued an apology over the incident that took place at one of its branches, after witnesses posted cellphone footage showing the pair being placed in handcuffs and led quietly from the store, even as perplexed onlookers could be heard saying they had done nothing wrong.
In his statement, Kevin Johnson, Starbucks chief executive, described the video as "hard to watch" and the arrests as a "reprehensible outcome.”
He said, “We apologize to the two individuals and our customers for what took place at our Philadelphia store on Thursday.”
Johnson added, “Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did,” adding that he wanted to apologize personally to the two men.
However, he declined to explain why the actions escalated so quickly.
Later, the police said that they received a 911 complaint of trespassing and responding officers were told the two men had asked to use the lavatory without making a purchase.
In a statement, the police commissioner Richard Ross said the men said they were waiting for a friend and refused to leave.
Meanwhile, a Starbucks spokesman said the store had a policy of only allowing customers to use the lavatories.
Later, the local district attorney's office said the men were released after Starbucks declined to press charges.
However, demonstrators near the coffee shop and online pointed out that the incident was yet another example of how black people are still treated as second-class citizens in America.
One of the demonstrators outside the Philadelphia branch of Starbucks, Rev Jeffrey Jordan said, "It is a shame that (in) the year 2018 we're still putting up with this mess. This country was built on the backs of black and brown people and now Starbucks is going to treat us like we're second class."
Meanwhile, Robert Passikoff, the president of Brand Keys, a New York-based consulting firm that researches brand loyalty was quoted as saying that the fiasco illustrated the dilemma faced by Starbucks as it tried to be both a business and a modern kind of community centre.
He explained, “Companies have gone out of their way to establish the kind of emotional bonds and product delivery that they think is going to build engagement and loyalty and, ultimately, profits. But today the consumer decides what is right."