Starbucks sells itself as a community gathering spot as much as a coffeehouse, a welcoming place with comfortable chairs for lingering, trendy music and wi-fi.
That's one reason the arrest of two black men who were sitting in a Starbucks struck a nerve for so many: They were doing exactly what people do at most any of the chain's 28,000 stores worldwide.
The CEO of Starbucks Co, Kevin Johnson, called the arrests a "reprehensible outcome" and said he wants to personally apologise to the men, saying the company "stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling".
But that didn't stop protesters from gathering on Sunday outside the store in downtown Philadelphia where the arrests occurred.
As people ordered coffee inside, the Reverend Jeffrey Jordan led a crowd of a couple dozen in chants of "I am somebody, and I demand equality now".
"It is a shame that (in) the year 2018 we're still putting up with this mess," said Jordan. "This country was built on the backs of black and brown people and now Starbucks is going to treat us like we're second class."
The arrests, which occurred on Thursday, were captured on video that quickly gained traction on social media.
Video shows several police talking quietly with two black men seated at a table. After a few minutes, officers handcuff the men and lead them outside as other customers say they weren't doing anything wrong; Philadelphia-area media reported the two had been waiting for a friend.
Officers went to the store after Starbucks employees called 911 to report the men were trespassing, said Police Commissioner Richard Ross. He said officers were told the men had come in and asked to use the restroom but were denied because they hadn't bought anything. He said they then refused to leave.
Johnson's statement didn't address exactly what led to the police call, but a Starbucks spokeswoman said the store where the arrests occurred has a policy that restrooms are for paying customers only. In the video, no Starbucks items are visible in front of the men.
Johnson said the company's practices and training led to a "bad outcome" and the reason for the call that brought police into the shop was incorrect.
"Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did," his statement said. Johnson said videos of the arrest were "very hard to watch" and the company was investigating.
Police haven't released the names of the men who were arrested. A spokesman for the district attorney's office said the two were released "because of lack of evidence" that a crime had been committed, but declined further comment, citing a police investigation.
© AP 2018
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