News & Politics

Protesters Shout Down Executive Amid Starbucks Efforts to Appease Black Lives Matter

Camille Hymes, center, regional vice president of Mid-Atlantic operations at Starbucks Coffee Company, speaks with Asa Khalif, of Black Lives Matter, right, after protesters entered the coffee shop, Sunday, April 15, 2018, demanding the firing of the manager who called police resulting in the arrest of two black men on Thursday. (Mark Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

Last week, a Starbucks employee in Philadelphia called the police on two black men who had not ordered anything and reportedly refused to leave. The police arrested the men, leading to a national outcry and protests outside the Philadelphia location. On Sunday, protesters entered the store en masse and shouted down a regional vice president, even going so far as to insist that they would leave only when they wanted to leave.

When Starbucks regional vice president Camille Hymes attempted to speak with Black Lives Matter activist Asa Khalif, the activist shouted over her into the microphone and “mansplained” her to the crowd.

“I’m the regional vice president,” Hymes said. Khalif immediately blared into his bullhorn, “We have the regional vice president here!” Activists inside the Starbucks angrily demanded to see the employee who had called the police. “Can I see you?! Let us see you!”

Khalif told Hymes “one second,” and blared, “We want the manager fired! We know that she’s still here. We want the manager fired. We have the regional manager for Starbucks standing next to me, she identified herself. I hope that she can announce to us that the racist manager has been fired.”

Hymes, finally given an instant to respond, proved courteous to a fault. “I really thank you for a peaceful protest. I respect…” she said, and they shook hands. As Hymes introduced herself, activists yelled for her to speak up, and one shouted, “Profiling!”

Hymes said she “deeply regretted” the arrest of the black men, and then she went on to explain the local branch’s policy. “We instituted a practice of what we call ‘safe and welcome,’ and so for all of the non-customers, we’ve asked them not to use our restrooms. And that is for all customers,” she said.

Protesters loudly interrupted, “No, it’s not!” Speak the truth, speak the truth!”

“What I will say is that we would love to meet those two men and personally apologize,” she added. Khalif tried to interrupt, but she continued, “And I know the question has come up in terms of whether or not the manager should be fired.”

“She should be fired!” one protester loudly interrupted. “No question about it. Let’s give her some training!”

Hymes attempted to take responsibility for the manager’s error, saying, “We put her in a position that did not allow her to be set up for success — or those two men.”

Immediately more protesters cut her off. “She failed them!” “She got a picture in the system!” “She failed them! She failed them!”

Khalif then proceeded to speak over her, laying out his demands. “I appreciate your coming and speaking. But the only demand we have is two, we want the manager fired,” the Black Lives Matter activist declared. “Let her train somewhere else, but she must be fired, because before you can have any healing, there has to be consequences for her actions. When you call law enforcement on black and brown bodies they are met with aggression and violence and you know that. So we cannot overshadow that. We cannot overlook that.”

“We want her out! And once she’s fired, then we can have a conversation. But we can have no conversation,” the activist declared, continuing his monologue over her. He then addressed Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who defended the police who arrested the black men.

“This is for Commissioner Ross. We’re going to deal with you and your police force. We want every last one of those officers fired for what they did to those black brothers,” Khalif warned. “They’re all involved in what took place on Thursday and they’re all guilty.”

“Let me just say this,” Hymes said, turning back to Khalif. He cut her off. “I don’t mean no disrespect. We came here with a demand, the demand is that we want the manager fired.”

The Black Lives Matter activist continued his monologue. “Listen, the people are demanding. … We are open to dialogue, but we cannot have any dialogue unless the manager is fired.” He went on to describe the manager as a “racist bigot.”

Hymes, clearly realizing that her efforts to explain the situation and to calm Khalif and the rest of the crowd had clearly failed, attempted to clear them out of the Starbucks.

“At this time, we wanted to ask that you step outside,” the regional manager said.

“I appreciate your hospitality, but the people are in charge,” Khalif shot back. “We’ll leave when we’re ready to leave.”

From Saturday onward, Starbucks has profusely apologized for the incident. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson called the two black men’s arrest “reprehensible” and promised to take steps to “prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again.”

Johnson explained that “the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong. Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.”

These statements did not appease the protesters, and on Monday two dozen of them took over the shop, chanting slogans like, “A whole lot of racism, a whole lot of crap, Starbucks coffee is anti-black.”

“We don’t want this Starbucks to make any money today. That’s our goal,” Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, an organizer of the Monday protest, declared, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

On Tuesday, Starbucks announced that it would shut down 8,000 stores on May 29 in order to educate nearly 175,000 employees on racial bias. The manager responsible for the arrest of the two black men reportedly left the company on Monday.

Watch the video of Khalif and the crowd shouting Hymes down below. The incident begins around the 21:00 minute mark.

Starbucks at 18th and Spruce streets

Posted by Jenice Armstrong on Sunday, April 15, 2018