“In this case, none of that occurred,” he said. “It was completely inappropriate to engage the police.”
Mr. Johnson made the remarks as demonstrators filled the store, located on 18th and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia’s Center City, on Monday morning. Footage posted on social media showed protesters holding placards and chanting slogans against the company and the police action. The protests continued on the city’s streets throughout the afternoon.
On Thursday, the two men asked to use the coffee shop’s restroom. An employee refused the request because the men had not bought anything, officials said. They sat down, and they were eventually asked to leave. When they declined, an employee called the police.
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Some of what happened next was recorded in a video that has been viewed over 10 million times on Twitter and that was described by Mr. Johnson as “very hard to watch.” Police officers surrounded the men and escorted one of them out of the Starbucks in handcuffs. The other soon followed.
The men, who have not been identified, were arrested on suspicion of trespassing. But Starbucks did not want to press charges and the men were later released, Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. of the Philadelphia Police Department said in a recorded statement on Saturday.
The prosecutor’s office in Philadelphia reviewed the case and declined to charge the men because of “a lack of evidence that a crime was committed,” Benjamin Waxman, a spokesman for the office, said.
A longer video of the episode shows the police talking with the men for at least four minutes before a white man, Andrew Yaffe, joins them. He informs the police that the people they were about to take into custody were “not trespassing” and were meeting him there.
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The episode goes to the heart of how the company has modeled itself, with campaigns that address racial and social issues and promote its image as a community meeting place for customers to linger.
In 2015, the company encouraged its baristas to write the words Race Together on coffee cups as a way of promoting discussion and unity. Many were skeptical of the effort, pointing out that Starbucks’s own leadership was predominantly white.
Brian Yarbrough, an equity analyst with Edward Jones, said the company might feel less of an impact on sales because Mr. Johnson took direct steps to address the episode, including expressing publicly that it was committed to investigating and conducting training. But, he added, “they need to make swift decisions.”