Son, funny. I had his same conversation with a friend just the other day.
When you isolate the letter of the law (and I don’t know the actual statute, so I’m speaking broadly here), if a manager asks you to leave their place of business and you don’t, that’s probably trespassing if that person has the authority to do so. I don’t know if the person was a manager or a line employee.
But this incident didn’t happen in a vacuum a manager asking random people to leave. You have to look at the totality of all the events that occurred.
This incident took place in the larger context of this particular location’s common practice, as well as that other Starbucks nationwide — not to mention common courtesy — to extend the use of their restrooms to paying and potentially paying customers. If the request of asking to use the restroom with the expectation of the key being handed over upon request was unique, unusual, or suspect in the context of Starbucks’ corporate image (if they never gave the keys to potential customers), then there’d be cause for the guy’s reaction to warrant action on the part of the person behind the counter.
Unfortunately, the person the guys encountered opted not to extend that courtesy to one of the gentlemen. Like I said, granting access via the keys was common practice and common courtesy. This was known by the guys and the employee. The person at the register stood nothing to lose by handing over the key, but they chose not to … and we can assume based on the final outcomes, that the reasons were racially motivated.
I don’t know what words were exchanged, but I doubt seriously the guys were looking for an altercation as they were waiting for a friend who showed up during the midst of the arrest.