Protesters Call for Boycott of Starbucks, Targeting Donations to the Seattle Police Foundation

by Elizabeth Turnbull

Protesters gathered on July 16 at 1912 Pike Place, the location of the original Starbucks coffee shop — as well as marching past several other Starbucks stores on Thursday — to call for a boycott of the coffee giant and demand that it divest from donating to the Seattle Police Foundation (SPF).

“We are here because we need to cut off all ties with Starbucks and SPD, period,“ one speaker who goes by Peyday told the Emerald. “The importance of the boycott is to make disruptions just like any Black Lives Matter march … It’s to let them know that we can come with the facts and we can tell them specifically what they’re doing to affect the movement of Black Lives Matter.”

Protestors march near a Starbucks on 1st Avenue and Pike street in Seattle to demand the company stop financially supporting the Seattle Police Foundation. (Photo: Liz Turnbull)

Organized by a group called The Engage Team, the protest included various speakers who addressed how the corporation has donated funds to the SPF. In 2019, Starbucks donated between $10,000 and $25,000 to SPF, a non-profit organization dedicated to “supporting and providing resources for the professional development of Seattle’s Police Department,” according to the foundation’s website.

The site also says SPF provides funds for “Police Service Enhancements” or “Cutting-edge and specialized equipment and technology” to police officers.

Protesters also pointed out that Starbucks had a representative on the board of the Seattle Police Foundation at one point, which is no longer the case according to a Starbucks spokesperson.

One speaker from the University of Washington’s Black Lives Matter movement named Aliyah argued that the Seattle Police Department (SPD) cannot be effectively defunded by 50 percent until corporations such as Starbucks stop donating to nonprofits aimed at supporting the SPD. Aliyah also argued that donating to nonprofits provides a way for such corporations to support the police without public oversight into how the funds are spent.

“As we call for defunding the police by at least fifty percent we must also be wary of how private corporations continue to funnel their money into the police,” Aliyah said. “This money, versus public spending, is without any form of oversight.”

Despite seeming progressive, Aliyah argued that the coffee company has a problematic track record and referenced how two Black men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks coffee shop in 2018 after the manager of the store called the police on the men while they were waiting for a friend. Aliyah also pointed to the coffee chain’s “Coffee With A Cop” program which brings together police officers and customers over cups of coffee.

“Starbucks exemplifies white liberalism — it’s the corporate equivalent of Black Lives Matter signs on a suburban lawn,” Aliyah said.

Following the initial speeches, protesters waved signs reading, “Boycott Starbucks, Stop Funding the Seattle Police Foundation,” and “1 Black life > All the Wealth on Earth, Pay the Fee,” and “SBUX out of SPD,” as they marched through Pike Place to a second Starbucks at the intersection of Pine and 1st Avenue, roughly a block away from the original store.

From the time the protest began at 2 p.m. to when it concluded at roughly 6 p.m., the protesters marched past as many as five Starbucks locations, finally arriving at the Starbucks Reserve located at 1124 Pike Street on Capitol Hill. There the organizers provided food to participants, and some individuals spoke about their experiences facing racism in life and — for some —  while working for the coffee company.

The march consisted of approximately a few hundred people, and Peyday said that he believed those who came out seemed serious about enacting change around the company’s funneling of money in the direction of the Seattle Police Department.

“The end goal is to cut ties with SPD,” Peyday said. “Period.”

Elizabeth Turnbull is a Seattle-based journalist 

Featured image by Noirescent 

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