Videos posted online show police handcuffing the two men Thursday. "They were having a meeting and they were undoubtedly singled out due to their race".
According to Commissioner Richard Ross, officers received a trespassing call from Starbucks after the men allegedly used the restroom without making a purchase, which goes against company policy. She said it was the manager at the Starbucks who called the police, and that her clients weren't doing anything wrong.
"What did they do?" one man asks. The sole reason for their arrest was that they refused to obey a perfectly lawful order by police.
This attempt to spin the situation is unconvincing. He did not mention the man who said he was meeting with the other two men.
The pair repeatedly refused to leave when asked politely by employees and officers, he added. The stores are "community" hubs, the official said, where people often drop in to use the WiFi or chat with friends without necessarily ordering anything.
"We do this because we want people, our officers, our recruits to understand the minute they come on board to know about the atrocities that were committed by policing around the world", Ross said. The entire incident, including the actions of the responding officers, is under internal investigation.
About 700 of the department's 6,300 officers are equipped with body cameras, he added, but the officers involved were not wearing them.
In the video, a white man, who was later identified as Andrew Yaffe, a local real estate investor, can be overheard calling the arrest "ridiculous".
Unless I see a black person commit a crime right before my eyes I wouldn't call the cops, because I know that a person of color doesn't have a good chance of surviving any interaction with the police. "And they did just that". He said a Starbucks employee called police to report a disturbance and accused the men of trespassing.
The men weren't released until about 12:30 a.m. on Friday, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, which talked to an attorney who agreed to represent the two men pro bono.
"These officers did absolutely nothing wrong".
Ross said that the police remained professional and they "followed policy and they did what they are supposed to do".
A longer video of the episode shows police talking with the men for at least four minutes before Yaffe arrives. Discrimination by businesses on the basis of race is, of course, illegal.
The video, which went viral on social media, has sparked passionate debate about racism in 2018. She also confirmed that many others in the store had been sitting there for hours without purchasing anything but were not confronted by any employees. The manager then called 911 for assistance, the company said.
It should be noted that it remains unclear what happened between the time the two men were denied the right to use the Starbucks' restroom and the time the store's employees dialed police. It's unclear if Ross' video speaks to the full results of that investigation.
Mayor Jim Kenney spoke out about the incident Saturday in a statement where he called for Philadelphia's Commission on Human Relations to look into the policies of Starbucks.
"For many, Starbucks is not just a place to buy a cup of coffee, but a place to meet up with friends or family members, or to get some work done", he said in the statement. "Like all retail establishments in our city, Starbucks should be a place where everyone is treated the same, no matter the colour of their skin".