More than 50 people, all wearing clothes or carrying items that signified their support for President Donald Trump, piled into a Starbucks in Charlotte, North Carolina, Saturday after the coffee shop’s staff was accused of mocking a customer for wearing a Trump T-shirt.
The peaceful sit in, which began at 2 p.m., completely filled the Starbucks location — and even the parking lot, for a little while. The group had no demands, but instead wanted to stand up to a business they felt was disrespectful toward their political views, Mecklenburg County Republican Party board member James Tatro told The Charlotte Observer.
“We wanted the staff to see that Trump supporters are just as human as anyone else,” he said. “We live in a diverse city. It’s unacceptable in a modern society to make a customer feel uncomfortable, whether it’s a liberal business mistreating a conservative customer or a conservative business mistreating a liberal customer.”
Members of the pro-Trump group told Fox 46 Charlotte that the sit-in started out a little tense, but the mood shifted when people started ordering beverages using names associated with the White House, like Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“I gave them the name Trump and ... they were very gracious about it,” Shellie Anderson told the TV station. “We just wanted to reverse the little negativity... It’s really good to come together and take something negative and just come in here and be respectful.”
In a Facebook post about the event, the Mecklenburg County Republican Party described the sit-in as “a perfect example of a peaceful political demonstration.” The party said the group consisted of representatives from the board, Hispanics for Trump, Women for Trump, and Deplorable Pride, a pro-Trump LGBT group.
Saturday’s demonstration was in response to an incident from earlier this month, when a Dilworth, North Carolina, woman named Kayla Hart allegedly entered the Starbucks coffee shop wearing a pro-Trump T-shirt.
Hart said she was laughed and shouted at and received a coffee with the label “build that wall” in the place where her name should have been.
“They shouted out ‘Build a wall’ and shoved a drink at me and then all the barisatas in the back started cracking up laughing,” she said, describing the encounter. “I just walked out because everyone was staring.”
Starbucks’ corporate office formally apologized for the ordeal, saying they “failed to meet this customer’s expectations of us, and we have apologized and are working directly with her to make it right.”
“This experience is not consistent with our standards or the welcoming and respectful experience we aim to provide every customer who visits our stores,” the statement continued. “We have spoken with our store partners about this situation and are using this as a coaching opportunity for the future.”
Tatro said the Mecklenburg County Republican Party is satisfied with Starbucks’ apology, adding that what happened to Hart is “terrible.”
“I think it not only hurt her feelings, but discouraged her from being involved in political process,” he said. “Many Trump supporters are afraid to wear Trump gear for that reason. ... It’s a shame that some people only feel comfortable when it’s group of 40 people or so.”
Hart did not participate in Saturday’s demonstration.