Foodservice

Starbucks to Close U.S. Stores for Racial-Bias Training

Protesters call for boycott of chain after incident

PHILADELPHIA -- Starbucks will close all its 8,000 company-owned U.S. stores the afternoon of May 29 to conduct a racial-bias education program after video of the arrest of two African-American customers went viral this past week.

Dozens of activists protested inside a Philadelphia Starbucks, days after police there arrested two African-American men whom store workers accused of trespassing.

The coffee giant is responding to backlash following viral footage of the incident, including the trending Twitter hashtag #BoycottStarbucks, by calling last week’s arrests a “reprehensible outcome.”

Starbucks said it is investigating the incident and that CEO Kevin Johnson and Regional Vice President Camille Hymes will be in Philadelphia to talk with company employees, customers, community leaders and law enforcement.

The May 29 training will be informed with the help of the Equal Justice Initiative, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Anti-Defamation League and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

“Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome—the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong,” Johnson said in a statement. “Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.”

Protesters, meanwhile, are calling out the coffee chain—known for touting its stores as safe and welcoming “third places”—as anti-black.

"We don't want this Starbucks to make any money today. That's our goal," Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, one of the protest's organizers and co-founder of the Black and Brown Workers Collective, told The Associated Press. The demonstration resulted in the location closing its doors for the day. In addition to the boycott effort, some activists are calling for the Seattle-based company to fire the manager who called the police on the men in the first place. The employee who made the call has left the store as the investigation continues, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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