Police say a Starbucks employee called 911 because the men were trespassing; one of the men allegedly asked to use the restroom without buying anything. The men were reportedly early for a business meeting. Their business associate, who is white and showed up while police were at the coffee shop, can be seen and heard on the video saying, "What did they do? What did they do?" It's the same question that's being asked across America.
"That kind of thing happens to black people and people of color all the time. It's just that situation was notable because there was a white woman there to sort of record it," said Kamau Bell, a stand-up comic and host of CNN's United Shades of America. Bell is referring to the woman who recorded the cell phone video and can be heard on the video saying "they didn't do anything. I saw the entire thing."
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Bell actually had a similar experience near his home in the East Bay in 2015. Bell says he met up with his wife at the Elmwood Cafe in Berkeley. His wife, who is white, was sitting at an outdoor table with friends and when Bell says he showed up at their table to show everyone a book, a cafe employee knocked on the window and told Bell to leave. "I hear from people in the Bay Area all the time, whatever happened with the Elmwood Cafe? Nothing. They let the story go, the owner of the Elmwood Cafe stopped answering my emails because once they got through the storm, they were able to sort of go back to business as usual. And we can't let Starbucks go back to business as usual."
Bell says the incident in Philadelphia is about more than Starbucks or their employees or even the police officers. "We have to make it about society's institutions and structures of racism."
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"White people need to understand that racism is hurting them too," says Bell who hopes more people, like the woman recording the cell phone video, get involved in the fight against
racism, "because it's creating a world that is not just or equitable and not free of fear."
The company released the following statement Saturday:
"We apologize to the two individuals and our customers and are disappointed this led to an arrest. We take these matters seriously and clearly have more work to do when it comes to how we handle incidents in our stores. We are reviewing our policies and will continue to engage with the community and the police department to try to ensure these types of situations never happen in any of our stores."