Starbucks is facing a publicity nightmare after a new viral video circulating on social media revealed a case of potential racial profiling by the company. Witnesses to the incident were quick to upload cellphone video of the interaction between police officers and two black Americans waiting in the store.
The video shows six Philadelphia Police officers arriving at the Starbucks and approaching two seated black individuals. The police asked the two men to leave when suddenly another customer, Andrew Yaffe, arrived. Yaffe explained that the two men were waiting for him, but officers did not listen. They claimed the two men were not complying, and they were both arrested for trespassing.
The video has reached over 4.5 million views, and the view count is still growing. The two men were both released with no charges filed after being held for over nine hours. Starbucks has since apologized for the incident. According to reports, the men had told an employee that they were waiting for another customer. That employee later called the police on them for assistance in removing the non-paying guests from the premises. A Starbucks official told The Washington Post that the employee was simply following store policy, but the company will be reevaluating these policies as a result of the recent viral video.
The police department is being heavily criticized for their response to the situation. Philadelphia’s police commissioner, however, has defended his department’s actions and decisions. The department recently sent out a Tweet explaining that they will be doing an internal investigation of the incident. They are withholding commenting until then.