Berlin’s police department strongly rejected the accusations on Thursday and announced it would press charges against the individuals who were involved in recording and uploading the video for violating the officers’ privacy laws.
The video immediately triggered outrage on social media, even though KFC denied that racism triggered the incident. A spokeswoman for Berlin’s police department similarly said on Thursday that a KFC employee called officers to the store, complaining about ongoing “vandalism.”
Upon the arrival of police officers, a store worker explained that a “group of eight people refused to leave the store. They had thrown around food and insulted employees,” according to a police spokeswoman.
In a statement on Thursday, KFC said that the group’s “behavior alarmed several individuals,” who were in the store at the time. After “mediation efforts failed,” an employee called authorities.
German officials defended their subsequent response, saying that KFC has property rights and is allowed to ask individuals to leave.
Speaking to German newspaper Die Welt, one of the members of the group, 38-year-old Kelon Pierre, offered a different version of events, however. “We ordered food for 118 euros … Other guests around us also chatted and laughed. That’s why I asked: Why are you only speaking to us?” said Pierre, referring to a restaurant employee giving the group the choice to either be quieter or leave the restaurant.
“We were the only black people in the restaurant and we were the only ones asked to be quieter, even though other people laughed, too,” Pierre told Die Welt. According to the German paper, the group had come to Berlin from Britain on a tourism trip.
On social media, German viewers voiced outrage and apologized to the group on behalf of their countrymen and women. “I am German and I am pretty shocked about my fellow countrymen! Especially it makes me sad, how the people in the restaurant react. I’m sure there were a lot of people watching the scene,” wrote one viewer.
The incident reminded some of the arrest of two African American men at a Philadelphia Starbucks last month. Both men were charged with trespassing and creating a disturbance after sitting at the store without ordering a beverage or food.
The charges were later dropped and the two men agreed to a symbolic payment of $1 each, asking the city to fund $200,000 for a grant program for high school students aspiring to become entrepreneurs instead. In response to the arrest that was caught on video, Starbucks closed 8,000 stores for one afternoon to conduct racial-bias training.
KFC Germany, however, insisted in a statement on Thursday that its franchise partner’s employees had acted correctly.
“Our employees come from different cultures and have various faiths. Of course, every guest is welcome (at our stores) across the globe — regardless of their origins, their religion or skin color,” the statement read.