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After White Police Officers Shoot and Kill An African-American Man in Seattle, Communityactivists Adopt a New Tactic: Pressuring Powerful Corporations Like Starbucks to Take a Stand Againstpolice Brut

June 21, 2001

On May 31, white police officers once again shot and killed an African-American man. Two police officers stoppedAaron Roberts, 37, on a traffic violation. Roberts attempted to drive away. By the time the altercation was over,police had fatally shot the unarmed man in the stomach. Aaron Roberts’ 17-year-old son happened to be nearby, andpushed through the police tape to be closer to his wounded father. Police restrained him and then arrested him.With his father dead, he spent the night in the juvenile detention center on charges of assault.

This didn’t happen in Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles or New York. This happened in Seattle, a city with anAfrican-American population of less than 10%, a city that residents say has been plagued by racism and policebrutality for years.

Community members have called for citizen boards of inquiry, and an end to racial profiling by the police. They haveheld protests and meetings with city council members.

But then some community leaders launched a campaign unheard of in police brutality cases: a boycott of theSeattle-based multinational coffee company, Starbucks.

Around 100 people congregated at the Central District’s Starbucks on June 13. The People’s Coalition for Justiceorganized the demonstration, and was joined by members of an engineers union taking issue with conditions at acoffee-bean roasting plant, and members of the Green Party.

We are joined on the telephone right now by Reverend Robert Jeffrey, the pastor at the Central District’s New HopeBaptist Church and one of the leaders of this unique coalition.


  • Reverend Robert Jeffrey, Pastor at New Hope Baptist Church, and with the People’s Economic Union (acoalition of groups to unify around).