BLOOMFIELD – There have been an outcry of support nationwide following the controversial arrest of the two black customers in a Philadelphia Starbucks.
What started out as a quiet afternoon for customers quickly changed when local activists took over.
“I am a black man in America. Society fears me and police kill me,” said Cornell Lewis, a well-known, local activist of the Hartford area.
Their attention was suddenly turned to Lewis and a woman who was holding a large “Black Lives Matter” sign.
Lewis wanted to make a statement to let people in Connecticut know racism still exists.
“People of color are not going to tolerate racism,” added Lewis.
The protest and others around the country reacted to the arrest video. Two black men were seen being escorted out of a Philadelphia Starbucks earlier this week after a barista called police on the men.
They were waiting for a friend and they were never charged with a crime.
“It made me just feel that this is continuation of how black people, men especially are viewed in America by the majority of whites in America,” added Lewis.
Starbucks now plans to close 8,000 stores across the country on May 29th to hold employee training for racial sensitivity and Lewis said more needs to be done.
“He’s doing something but I don’t think it’s enough,” added Lewis.
During the protest, Lewis brought out a noose and loosely hung it around his neck. Some customers immediately left while some told him his message was appropriate.
“We may think things have changed a lot and maybe we don’t have lynching’s certainly the way they used to be, but for people of color, the experience is still they’re not free, they’re not safe,” said Nancy Bowden of Bloomfield.
“Too many people have turned a blind eye to the issue of racism and it’s ongoing and it’s structural and it needs to stop,” said JoAnne Bauer of Hartford.
While FOX61 was interviewing Lewis, the Starbucks manager interrupted and said Lewis was more than welcome to have a silent protest and to help himself to some coffee.
Lewis said he was surprised and he shook her hand and said his message was probably heard after all.
“I did not expect that though,” added Lewis.