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Chipotle Apologizes After Brooklyn Employee Uses Hands-Up Gesture When Cops Enter Restaurant

handsupgestureAs far as the executives of Chipotle are concerned, it’s one thing to raise your hands up in anti-police protest on the street, but if you do it behind the counter at a Chipotle when a line of uniformed NYPD cops come into the restaurant it’s an outrage.

After a Chipotle employee pulled off the stunt on Dec. 16 at a Chipotle in Brooklyn—one that is apparently popular with the NYPD—the cops turned around and left the store. And the CEOs issued a public statement of apology, trying to quell a social media firestorm from NYPD supporters.

“We work very hard to ensure that every customer in our restaurants feels welcome and is treated with respect,” said co-CEO’s Steve Ells and Montgomery Moran in a statement yesterday. “Clearly, the actions of this crew member undermined that effort.”

“We have conducted a review of the incident including interviews with the crew and a review of video footage from security cameras,” the statement continued. “Our investigation has shown that this appears to have been a spontaneous, unplanned action taken by an individual crew member and was not a coordinated effort by the staff of the restaurant.”

A rumor had flown around the Internet that after the employee raised his hands in the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture popularized by protesters demonstrating against the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the officers were refused service. But that was not the case, according to published reports.

The story illustrates what happens when protesters try to bring their political statements into the much more conservative world of corporate America—they quickly get shut down and very likely punished, though Chipotle didn’t indicate whether the employee lost his job.

The issue began when Ray Melendez, a Brooklyn resident who identified himself as a former NYPD officer, put up on Facebook that “an officer involved at the incident” told him several employees of a local Chipotle had “raised their hands & said: ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ to the officers.”

Melendez said the officers turned around and left “rather than provoke what could be a losing situation, given the climate of ‘support’ from our Mayor,” apparently referring to Mayor Bill de Blasio expressing what police took as support for the protesters.

Melendez then quoted a complaint by another former NYPD officer, Scott Lothrop, who said the “familiar but completely erroneous ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ gesture” caused the on-duty officers “a great deal of embarrassment, annoyance and humiliation.” Lothrop claimed he would boycott Chipotle.

 The New York papers pointed out that the Brooklyn Chipotle location was the same one that made the news a couple years ago when it was revealed that officers in uniform automatically received a 50 percent discount—which is actually prohibited under NYPD guidelines. At the time, the store manager referred to the discount as a “courtesy.”



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