It happens all the time. You agree to meet with someone at a coffee shop but for some reason you arrive early or the other person is late. You think it would be rude to order before the other person arrives because that might look like a rebuke for lateness so you wait, perhaps for some time. While waiting, you may use the bathroom. Then the person arrives and life goes on. One thing that you probably don’t worry about is that the police are going to be called by the store manager and have you arrested for not ordering something.
Unless you are a young black man, of course. Then you run the risk of arrest for any damn thing, as was experienced by two such men at a Starbucks restaurant in Philadelphia, whom the police arrested while they were calmly seated waiting for a third person to arrive.
In the clip, the two men can be seen being escorted from a table at the cafe in handcuffs while a white man, who has been identified as Philadelphia real estate investor Andrew Yaffe, asks why officers were called and attempts to explain to police that the two men were waiting for him.
“What did they get called for, because there were two black guys sitting here, meeting me?” Yaffe asks in the video. “What did they do?”
@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 video shows the men being quiet and calm but yet arrested and walked out. Thanks to the video, the police cannot make the usual claim that the men were disorderly or creating a disturbance, as the police chief initially claimed.
Commissioner Ross said in a video posted to Facebook on Saturday afternoon that police responded around 4:40 p.m. Thursday to a 911 call reporting a disturbance. The men had refused to leave the cafe after asking to use the restroom without placing an order, which violated Starbucks policy, staff members told police.
The men were detained after they refused officers’ requests to leave as well, Ross said.
“The police did not just happen upon this event — they did not just walk into Starbucks to get a coffee,” he said. “They were called there, for a service, and that service had to do with quelling a disturbance, a disturbance that had to do with trespassing. These officers did absolutely nothing wrong.”
DePino said in an interview with the Inquirer and Daily News that she posted the video, which was recorded by a woman sitting next to her at the coffee shop, immediately after the men’s arrest, which she said involved about eight officers.
“They did not raise their voices; they were not confrontational,” DePino said of the men. Police “put them in handcuffs and essentially perp-walked them out of the store.”
This follows the release of another video at a New Jersey fitness center when the police were called to remove two men, even though they were long-standing members of the club. At least in that case, the police seemed to be puzzled as to why they were called at all.
In both cases, the managers and other employees involved were fired.
But what puzzles me is that in these days of ubiquitous cameras, the employees knew or must have known that they were being filmed. The fact that they went ahead with their actions suggests to me that they felt they were completely in the right to do what they did. I can only put that down to the fact that racism in the US is so deeply embedded that people think it is normal to believe that young black men are pondering criminal actions until proven otherwise, and that preemptively calling the police on them even if they did not do anything wrong is perfectly acceptable.