Berlin - KFC is facing racism accusations in Germany after a group of several black customers was thrown out of one of its Berlin stores on Monday. In a video distributed online and recorded by a member of that group, police officers can be seen escorting the group out of the restaurant.
In the caption of the video, which had been viewed more than 250 000 times as of Thursday evening, the uploader accuses Berlin authorities and KFC of racist motives. "Racial treatment in Berlin in KFC, we were jus having something to eat n chatting #racismstillexist #neverexperiencethatbefore," she writes. (The misspellings are in the original post.)
Berlin's police department strongly rejected the accusations on Thursday and announced it would press charges against the person who uploaded the video for violating the officers' privacy laws. The woman who is believed to have recorded the scenes did not respond to a request for comment.
The video immediately triggered outrage on social media, even though KFC denied that racism triggered the incident, in a response provided to a German newspaper. 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.
Authorities defended their 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.
KFC Germany did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
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 will close 8,000 stores for one afternoon in May to conduct racial-bias training.
The Washington Post