The area of Philadelphia where two men were arrested while waiting at a Starbucks last week has what the American Civil Liberties Union calls “the highest racial disparities in pedestrian stops in the entire city.”
The ACLU said its research shows African-Americans made up 67% of pedestrian stops in Philadelphia’s Ninth District in 2017, even though the area’s population is only 3% black.
“Black Philadelphians face daily indignities when they are simply trying to go about their business. This incident shows that black people can’t even ‘wait while black,’ ” Executive Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania Reggie Shuford said in a statement regarding the Starbucks arrests.
He also called out Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who said the officers who arrested the two men “did absolutely nothing wrong.”
“Commissioner Ross, [Ninth District] Capt. [Danielle] Vales, and [Ninth District] Lt. [Jeff] Rabinovitch also have failed the people of Philadelphia by allowing this district to continuously, year after year, have the highest rates of racial disparities in stops,” Shuford said. “Are black people not welcome in this neighborhood? That’s the message that is sent by police officers who repeatedly stop African-Americans there without cause.”
The ACLU has been collecting data about stop and frisk practices since 2011 when the ACLU and the city of Philadelphia reached a settlement in a lawsuit brought about by the ACLU regarding what it saw as illegal stop, question, frisk and search practices by the city’s police.
Over time, the ACLU’s numbers have shown that “stops have declined to a rate that is half of what it was in 2010.” However, the organization said unjustified stops and stops that overwhelmingly affect black citizens continue to be a problem.
A representative for Philadelphia’s Ninth District told CNN the department does not have a comment on the situation at this time.
Last Thursday, a video of two men being arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks went viral after it was revealed the two men were simply waiting at the establishment for their friend, who showed up as they were being handcuffed. In response, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson met with the two men who were arrested and called the incident “reprehensible.” Still, a call to #BoycottStarbucks has persisted on social media.
On Tuesday, Starbucks and attorney Stewart Cohen released another statement regarding the incident.
“We have a situation – and the people at the center of it have come together with civility, common purpose and a willingness to listen and work towards a solution,” the statement read. “Together we ask that the community respect this process. There will be more to follow.”