BLM Philly Statement on Starbucks and Loitering While Black

On Thursday April 12th two Black men were arrested at Starbucks located at 1801 Spruce Street while waiting for a friend. A barista on duty called the police because the men sat at a table without ordering anything. Patrons were confused about the ordeal, and stated that the men sat quietly without causing any type of disruption. The video can be seen here.

Black people, who experience racism and microaggressions throughout our lives, know that this encounter is not an anomaly. We know that the United States was built upon white supremacy and anti-blackness, which make experiences with institutional racism everyday realities. We live under the constant threat of violence, as the stories of Latasha Harlins, Emmett Till, Kenne McFadden, Stephon Clark, and countless others, who were murdered for being Black, teach us. Let us be clear: this incident is not about two Black men loitering in a Starbucks; it is about America’s historical legacy and present reality of white supremacy, which transforms the mere sight of Black bodies into a cause for fear and state violence.

In response to this incident, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Ross stated that the officers on duty “did absolutely nothing wrong,” and that the arrest was justified. Ross stated, “as an African American male, I am very aware of implicit bias; we are committed to fair and unbiased policing.” Let us not be confused by Commissioner Ross’ convenient appeal to his blackness. The Philadelphia Police Department and police departments throughout the United States have never exercised fair and unbiased policing in relation to Black people. They operate according to the same logics of fear and anti-blackness as the barista who called the police. The only difference is that their badges allow them to weaponize state-sanctioned violence against Black people on a larger scale and without consequence. The irrational fears of white people and state agents threaten the lives of Black people every day, as we saw with the recent incident in Michigan of a 14-year old Black boy being shot at by a retired firefighter after approaching his home to ask for directions.

We share the outrage of Black Philadelphians and people all over the world, who viewed the arrest video. We stand in solidarity with our comrades in The Black and Brown Workers Cooperative and Philly for REAL Justice, who made the following demands:

  1. We demand that the employee who called the police be fired.
  2. We demand an official apology to the two men arrested and the entire black community.
  3. We demand the firing of the cops who arrested the two men. 
  4. We demand that Starbucks create and publicize a new policy that expressly disallows calling the police on citizens. 

We encourage all, who are able, to support the BBWC and Real Justice action on Monday, April 16th between 7 AM and 10 AM in front of the Starbucks (details here).

As an organization rooted in Black self-determination, we believe that ultimately we need to build our own institutions to meet our needs. Instead of Starbucks, we encourage you to patronize Black and people of color-owned establishments in Philadelphia where Black patrons are treated with dignity and respect, including: 

  • Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books in Germantown (5445 Germantown Avenue) 
  • Little Jimmie’s in Mt Airy (6669 Germantown Avenue)  
  • Franny Lou’s Porch in Kensington (2400 Coral Street), 
  • Amalgam Comics in Kensington (2578 Frankford Avenue) 
  • Lucky Goat in Brewerytown (888 N. 26th Street)