Starbucks announced Tuesday that it will be closing all of its more than 8,000 U.S. stores for an afternoon on May 29th so that their employees can participate in “racial bias training” following an incident in which two black men were arrested for trespassing after refusing to leave or buy anything while waiting for a friend in the store.
“I’ve spent the last few days in Philadelphia with my leadership team listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement. “While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution. Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities.”
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said police responded to a 911 call from Starbucks employees saying that the men were trespassing. An employee denied their request to use the restroom since they didn’t buy anything, citing company policy.
Ross said officers "politely" asked the men to leave multiple times before the arrests. The men were later released when Starbucks decided not to prosecute.
“As an African American male, I am very aware of implicit bias," Ross said. "We are committed to fair and unbiased policing."
He said his officers "did absolutely nothing wrong."
However, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he was “heartbroken to see Philadelphia in the headlines for an incident like that,” and that the incident “appears to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018.”
He also said Starbucks’ prompt apology over the incident “is not enough.”
The incident was caught on video and caused Starbucks protests by Black Lives Matter and boycott threats. The Starbucks CEO met with the men who had been arrested Monday.
According to the Starbucks statement, the curriculum for their employees will be developed with guidance from “national and local experts confronting racial bias,” including Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative; Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Heather McGhee, president of Demos; former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; and Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.