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Arrest of Black Men at Starbucks Spurs Outrage on Social Media

Celebrities and activists are calling for a boycott of the coffee chain following a racist incident in Philadelphia

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Philadelphia Police Arrest Of Two Black Men In Starbucks, Prompts Apology From Company's CEO
A protestor demonstrates outside a Starbucks on April 15, 2018 in Philadelphia
Mark Makela/Getty Images

Last Thursday at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, two black men were arrested for doing what countless others do at the coffee chain every day. As the men sat and waited for a friend to arrive without ordering anything, the manager on duty called the police, leading to the men being handcuffed and removed from the store for trespassing — an outrageous charge from a business that has staked its identity on being a “third place” where people frequently camp out with their laptops for hours to take advantage of free wifi and public restrooms.

The public outcry in response to the incident was swift and fierce, with numerous high-profile public figures speaking out. While many are vowing to boycott the coffee giant and encouraging others to do so as well — saying that the incident reveals racist policies at the chain — some say Starbucks as a whole shouldn’t be blamed for the actions of one employee, pointing to the chain’s relatively progressive policies on issues like equal pay and tuition reimbursement.

Here now, a look at social media reactions to the Starbucks arrest debacle.

Prominent celebrities and public figures including musician Questlove, actor Wendell Pierce (best known for The Wire), MSNBC host Joy Ann Reid, and former NAACP president Cornell Brooks pointed to the Starbucks incident as simply the latest example of pervasive racism in America:

Comedian Kevin Hart says the company doesn’t deserve to be boycotted for the actions of one employee:

Many, including Black Lives Matter activist Deray McKesson, took issue with Starbucks’ initial response, in which the chain said “We... clearly have more work to do when it comes to how we handle incidents in our stores”:

Some are encouraging Starbucks to financially compensate the men who were arrested, as well as demanding that the manager who called the police be fired:

Rapper T.I. called for a boycott:

I ain’t spending no more of my bread wit em... urge y’all not to either ‍♂️

A post shared by TIP (@troubleman31) on

Then there were the inevitable comedic takes: Comedian George Wallace couldn’t resist the opportunity for a coffee-themed pun, nor could many of his followers.

Dennis Miller chimed in with a wisecrack of his own:

Meanwhile the location’s Yelp page has been flooded with negative reviews, bringing its average rating down to one star:

Starbucks’ Facebook page is also being bombarded with posts from customers disappointed in the company’s response and vowing to boycott:

I have no shame in my love of Starbucks but this is too far! An apology is not enough. The employee and manager need to...

Posted by Laura O'Keefe on Monday, April 16, 2018

I am outraged at your behavior with the two gentlemen waiting for their new business partner and ending up being...

Posted by Phyllis Rocher on Monday, April 16, 2018

Protestors Storm Starbucks for Calling Police on Black Customers [E]