Cell phone video captured a bewildered man at Starbucks this week asking Philadelphia police why they were arresting his two black friends.
Onlookers said there didn't appear to be a reason for the arrest. The men were simply sitting at the coffee shop, waiting for their business associate — the aforementioned bewildered man — to show up before placing their orders.
Now, Starbucks has confirmed that the incident was a mistake, and "are disappointed this led to an arrest."
The three-sentence apology, however, is short on details or a even just a blunt admission of guilt. The company did not reply to Mashable's request for more details at the time of this publication.
We apologize to the two individuals and our customers for what took place at our Philadelphia store on Thursday. pic.twitter.com/suUsytXHks
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) April 14, 2018
On April 12, a Twitter user posted a 45-second video of the arrest online, in which she commented: "All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing."
@Starbucks The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing. pic.twitter.com/0U4Pzs55Ci
— Melissa DePino (@missydepino) April 12, 2018
The "same thing," specifically, is waiting for a friend or sitting at Starbucks before ordering a drink. This is obviously common in many Starbucks scenarios, as Starbucks is one of the nation's most popular meeting places.
As the company states on its website:
Details are still lacking, but it appears a Starbucks employee may have called the police on the two black men who — according to Commissioner Richard Ross — didn't leave the establishment after they were refused access to the bathroom because they weren't paying customers.
In the tweeted statement, Starbucks apologized to the two customers. It's unlikely such a public apology would have occurred if Starbucks wasn't directly responsibly for the arrest.
It's also unlikely that Starbucks would have been forced to publicly apologize for the event had the video of the wrongful arrest not been published to social media. It became an issue they couldn't ignore.
As of 4:30 p.m. Eastern time on April 14, the Twitter video has accumulated nearly four million views and the social media conversation around it continues.
How revealing that a @Starbucks employee, who works in a place where people spend hours sitting around using the wifi and tapping away on their laptops with or without coffee, gets alarmed enough to call the cops just because black men enter the space and don’t order right away. https://t.co/pdzXYfMc09
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) April 14, 2018
You'll notice that nowhere in this "apology" was an admission of wrongdoing. Starbucks doesn't think the employees were wrong to call the cops on those men, they're just sorry the men got arrested over it. https://t.co/wcE6s20lwk
— EricaJoy (@EricaJoy) April 14, 2018
This is an example of saying a lot but saying nothing. Who called the cops, why did they call the cops, why were the black men targeted for minding their business. I have been to starbucks all over the country 50% of people there not doing nothing but chilling. Need better answer https://t.co/SdfDHSxK0C
— Robert Littal (@BSO) April 14, 2018
It took Starbucks two days to issue a paragraph.
— Mohamed Salih (@MohamedMOSalih) April 14, 2018
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson addressed the situation that occurred in Philadelphia later on Saturday with a statement posted in the company's newsroom. It owns what happened more explicitly than the initial statement, notably in this passage.
UPDATED April 15, 2018, 11:12 a.m. ET with Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson's statement.