Starbucks on Friday said it will allow employees to wear clothing that supports the Black Lives Matter protest movement.
“We see you. We hear you. Black Lives Matter. That is a fact and will never change,” Starbucks said in a statement after a report revealed the existence of a memo to Starbucks employees that they cannot wear Black Lives Matter shirts and pins while on the job.
“We have always led with Our Mission and Values. Through every moment in our history, and in every crisis, Starbucks has come together to show: We will not be bystanders. This has never been more true than today,” according to the statement.
It added that the protests, which were sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, are a “catalyst for change.”
“As we talked about earlier this week, we’re designing new T-shirts with the graphic below to demonstrate our allyship and show we stand together in unity. Until these arrive, we’ve heard you want to show your support, so just be you. Wear your BLM pin or t-shirt. We are so proud of your passionate support of our common humanity. We trust you to do what’s right while never forgetting Starbucks is a welcoming third place where all are treated with dignity and respect,” the statement added.
The statement was issued after a memo circulated by the Seattle-based firm noted that within the movement, there are “agitators who misconstrue the fundamental principles of the Black Lives Movement … and in circumstances intentionally repurpose them to amplify divisiveness,” BuzzFeed News reported.
The update sent to baristas, obtained by BuzzFeed, added: “Partners may only wear buttons or pins issued to the partner by Starbucks for special recognition or for advertising a Starbucks-sponsored event or promotion; and one reasonably sized and placed button or pin that identifies a particular labor organization or partner’s support for that organization, except if it interferes with safety or threatens to harm customer relations or otherwise unreasonably interferes with Starbucks public image. Pins must be securely fastened. Partners are not permitted to wear buttons or pins that advocate a political, religious or personal issue.”
The coffee giant was criticized by Black Lives Matter supporters on social media, and they said they would initiate a boycott.
During the protests, which have mostly been peaceful, acts of violence against police officers and arson incidents have been reported. Reports of looting, vandalism, and threats have been commonly reported.
The Black Lives Matter movement regained national prominence in recent weeks after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody. Former officer Derek Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder in the case, while three other officers were fired and charged.
In recent days, a number of statues have been defaced during mass protests around the country, including Winston Churchill’s, which was daubed with the words “was a racist.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who cites Churchill as a personal hero, said it was “absurd and shameful” that his statue was “at risk of attack by violent protesters.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.