'Starbucks Coffee Is Anti-Black:' Protesters Express Outrage Over Arrests

Tim Jimenez
April 16, 2018 - 8:46 am
Starbucks Protest

Photo credit: Tim Jimenez


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Protesters packed a Center City Starbucks Monday which is the epicenter of a racially charged controversy that started with the arrest of two black men after store employees called 911 to say they were trespassing. 

Dozens of protesters got out of the cold and rain and filled the store at 18th and Spruce Streets shortly after 7:30 a.m., where they moved to the front counter and expressed their anger and frustration.

"A whole lot of coffee, a whole lot of whack. Starbucks coffee is anti-black," they chanted.

The outrage began after video of the men being handcuffed and placed under arrest was posted online.

Officials have said police officers were told the men had asked to use the store's restroom but were denied because they hadn't bought anything and they refused to leave.

READ: Philly's Top Cop Speaks Out, Starbucks Apologizes Following Center City Arrest

The activist groups Philly for REAL Justice and the Black and Brown Workers Cooperative organized the morning of action. The protesters wheeled a microphone and speaker into the coffee shop. One-by-one people criticized the store manager, Starbucks as a whole and the Philadelphia Police Department for how they handled Thursday's incident. As the protesters spoke, City Councilwoman Helen Gym was among those listening. 

“I think it is a sign of what happens when corporate power measures with police power to potentially impede on the civil rights of citizens in our city,” Gym told KYW Newsradio. 

The councilwoman said she is also looking for Starbucks and police to be completely transparent with what happened.

“We’ll certainly be doing our part as city council to ask those kinds of questions and push this a lot further, because I don’t think people want to see it become acceptable to have people harassed because of the color of their skin,” Gym said.

A common theme of the protest was that the outrage isn’t just about one incident, one store or one company. Lance Williams of South Philadelphia said there is real anger over a double standard that people of color have to live with.

“Who knows if we walk out the door and we get handcuffed or locked up just for being at the wrong place and the wrong time. Where’s the right place? Where’s the right place and the right time?”  Williams asked.

“It’s 2018 we should not be going through this,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to be doing sit-ins in a public establishment like this, like we’re in Mississippi. This happened in Mississippi in 1960!”

Protesters have called for the firing of the store manager and the employee who contacted police. 

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson has apologized and called the arrests a "reprehensible." He arrived in Philadelphia on Monday where he planned to meet the two men involved.