April 14 (Reuters) - The Philadelphia Police Department is investigating an incident captured on widely circulated videos this week in which officers arrested two black men as they sat in a Starbucks coffee shop and other patrons objected that the men were doing nothing wrong and appeared to be targeted merely for their race.
Cellphone footage that onlookers filmed of Thursday’s incident shows the two men sitting quietly at a table and talking for several minutes to police officers who have apparently been called to the store. They are then put in handcuffs and marched out.
Other customers, including a middle-aged white man, try to intervene. The white man tells police the pair have done nothing wrong, that they are allowed to be there, and that the officers are only trying to remove them because they are black, which an officer denies.
“Does anyone else in this place think this is ridiculous?” the white man asks. Other customers can be heard agreeing with him.
The Philadelphia Police Department said on Friday evening that an internal investigation was underway and it would not comment until that was complete.
Starbucks Corp said in a post on Twitter that it was aware police removed two “guests” from one of its Philadelphia stores and that it was also investigating, with the help of police and customers, what led to this “unfortunate result.”
Melissa DePino, an author who posted video of the arrest, said she was told later on Thursday that the two men, both real estate brokers, were released without charge.
She said staff at the Starbucks called police because the two men had not ordered anything while waiting for a friend to arrive. She said white customers were “wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing.”
The identity of the two arrested men was not immediately clear and they could not be reached for comment.
Police departments across the United States have come under criticism for repeated instances of killing unarmed black men in recent years, which activists blame on racial biases in the criminal justice system. (Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis and David Gregorio)