Starbucks arrest: Philadelphia police release audio of 911 call leading to arrest of two black men

The call sparked a slew of apologies from the coffee giant and said it should never have been made

Maya Oppenheim
Wednesday 18 April 2018 15:51 BST
911 audio reveals police called for backup at Starbucks arrest in Philadelphia

The police have released an audio recording of the 911 call that led to the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia branch of Starbucks.

The arrests sparked accusations of racial profiling by both the company and the police.

In the phone call, which lasted only seconds and brought police officers to the branch, an employee at the coffee chain, believed to be the manager, asks police to come to the cafe.

"Hi, I have two gentlemen at my cafe that are refusing to make a purchase or leave. I'm at the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce," a Starbucks employee told police last Thursday just after 4.30pm.

It was this call which sparked a slew of apologies from the coffee giant and said it should never have been made.

Public outrage grew after the two African-American men were arrested at the branch.

The controversy prompted the multinational firm to announce it would close all 8,000 of its US stores for an afternoon in May to train baristas on how to come to recognise their racial biases and prevent racial discrimination occurring in its cafes.

The men had initially asked to use the bathroom inside the cafe but were told the branch's bathrooms were for customers only. They then sat at a table without ordering anything – something many observers have noted is a frequent occurrence at the chain’s locations.

A manager called the police after the pair said they would not leave the premises because they explained they were waiting for a friend who arrived just as they were taken away in handcuffs.

The video of the ordeal quickly went viral – amassing 4.5 million views by Saturday evening.

The men were arrested for trespassing but no charges were filed. The manager in question is no longer working at the store.

The short 911 call was just one recording released by the Philadelphia Police on Tuesday, with authorities also releasing dispatch and officer communications.

In the recording, a police car is dispatched. Officers ask for backup and a supervisor due to a "disturbance at the Starbucks" involving a "group of males" and then officers indicate they are going to make arrests and transport the two men.

The “racial bias training” for the close to 175,000 employees nationwide Starbucks has organised is “designed to address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome”, according to a statement from the firm.

The incident has sparked protests outside the store and the #BoycottStarbucks hashtag has gained increasing traction on social media.

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