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Starbucks accused of offering 'too little too latte' after calling police on black customers

ABC News logo ABC News 16/04/2018

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Video provided by Reuters

The CEO of Starbucks says he wants to personally apologise to two black men who were arrested for "trespassing" in a store last week while reportedly just waiting for a friend.

The incident was captured on camera and has enraged members of the black community, who have accused the coffee chain of treating them like second-class citizens.

In a statement, CEO Kevin Johnson apologised for the "reprehensible outcome" and said the company stood "firmly against discrimination or racial profiling".

"The video shot by customers is very hard to watch," he said.

"I hope to meet personally with the two men who were arrested to offer a face-to-face apology."

A customer shows the two men being handcuffed and escorted from the premises by multiple police officers. © Reuters A customer shows the two men being handcuffed and escorted from the premises by multiple police officers. What happened?

The video of the incident taken by a customer shows the two men being handcuffed and escorted from the premises by multiple police officers.

At the same time, a white customer loudly confronts one of the officers and repeatedly asks "what did they do?"

"This is ridiculous. What did they get called for? Because they're two black guys sitting here?" he asks.

"They didn't do anything. I saw the entire thing," an unseen woman can be heard saying.

Police said they were called to the store after an employee placed a 911 call to report two men who were "trespassing".

Police Commissioner Richard Ross said officers were told the men had come in and asked to use the restroom but were denied because they hadn't bought anything. He said they then refused to leave.

Both men were later released "because of lack of evidence" that they had committed a crime, a police spokesman said.

Protestor Jack Willis, 26, demonstrates outside a Starbucks. © Mark Makela/Getty Images Protestor Jack Willis, 26, demonstrates outside a Starbucks. So what's Starbucks going to do about it?

Mr Johnson said the company had already begun investigating the incident and would be reviewing their practices.

"Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome — the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong," he said.

"Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did."

He said he would consult with customers, community leaders and law enforcement to prevent similar incidents from ever happening again, and would train staff to respond better in the future.

But that was "too little too latte" for a group of protesters who gathered at the store in Philadelphia to chant: "I am somebody, and I demand equality now".

They're calling for the store's manager to be sacked.

"This country was built on the backs of black and brown people and now Starbucks is going to treat us like we're second-class," said Reverend Jeffrey Jordan, who led the group.

"It is a shame that in the year 2018, we're still putting up with this mess."

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