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Why Two Black Men Were Arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks

The two black men were told they were trespassing at a Center City Philadelphia Starbucks because they weren’t paying customers.


4.14.18: Philadelphia – (Society): I spent nearly an hour on Saturday afternoon at a Starbucks on 18th & Spruce Street, the Center City Philadelphia location where, on this past Thursday, two black men were captured on a now viral video being arrested by police officers for apparent trespassing.

The 18th & Spruce Street Starbucks where two black men on Thursday were arrested for trespassing. Photo Credit: C. Norris – ©2018

The 18th & Spruce Street Starbucks where two black men on Thursday were arrested for trespassing. Photo Credit: C. Norris – ©2018

Though the Philadelphia Police Department isn’t saying anything more about the controversial arrest than to inform the public that an internal investigation is underway, a conversation I had with the store manager today was revealing, despite her best efforts to hush and, instead, direct me to the Starbucks media hotline.

Holly – who wouldn’t give me her last name nor share a business card for fear that it would spark online stalking, either by me or whomever I passed her information along to – has managed the 18th & Spruce Street location for a year. And, during that time, she has encountered many individuals who loiter in the café with no intentions of purchasing; at least one of those persons, she claims, chased her around the store after she asked them to leave.

According to Holly – who grew visibly flustered during my unrelenting questioning – a corporate policy germane exclusively to Center City Philadelphia locations prohibits excessive loitering. And if that policy is violated, then management has the discretion to ensure it’s enforced, even if it means calling the police.

Holly told me that she doesn’t inform the customers that she’ll be calling the police. I retorted: “Everyone deserves a warning.”

An even longer video of the encounter than what has been previously circulated around the internet, appears to show several Philadelphia police officers asking the two young men to leave. They refused. And it became clear arrests were impending.

In the video, you can hear one officer tell an outraged white male customer who had stuck up for the pair: “They’re not paying customers.”

A black college student named Lya showed up to the location on Saturday to execute her one-person sit-in. She was inside the location for more than two hours, and had not purchased anything, when I ran into her.

Lya revealed to me that Angela – a manager who was present only for today – had approached her three times and asked if she was going to order. Lya claims to have seen a number of people who, despite only receiving a complimentary cup of water, were occupying tables yet weren’t approached. Holly refuted that, asserting that Angela had questioned them, too.

Holly refused to answer whether it was normal for Baristas or management to call police when the loitering policy is violated by customers. I asked Holly what she was prepared to do given that Lya had been loitering. A coherent response wasn’t given and Holly soon walked away once another journalist arrived.

Protesters outside the 18th & Spruce Street Starbucks, where two black men on Thursday were arrested for trespassing. Photo Credit: C. Norris – ©2018

Protesters outside the 18th & Spruce Street Starbucks, where two black men on Thursday were arrested for trespassing. Photo Credit: C. Norris – ©2018

Three protesters with Black Lives Matter signs were outside the Starbucks location along with several news cameras. A direct action is planned for this Sunday.

Thanks for reading! Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® and I’m Drumming for Justice!™

Author’s bio: Christopher “Flood the Drummer®” Norris is an award-winning journalist, online content producer and professional drummer currently serving as the CEO of Techbook Online, a Philadelphia-based news and event company, and the host of Wake Up with WURD, the live, drive-time morning show which airs every weekday from 7-10a on WURD Radio 96.1FM/900AM/WURDRadio.com.

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