A report over the weekend about Chipotle employees in Brooklyn raising their hands in protest of police officers in uniform went viral and sparked a movement to boycott the burrito chain among pro-cop social media users.
The alleged incident involved employees at the Chipotle location on Montague Street in Brooklyn raising their hands in the “Hands up, don’t shoot” gesture popular with anti-police brutality protesters after the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Missouri. A Facebook user named Ray Melendez wrote about the incident on a page called “Thank you NYPD” on Dec. 17, along with a form letter of complaint he encouraged police supporters to send to Chipotle CEO Monty Moran.
Then on Sunday, after slain NYPD officer Rafael Ramos was laid to rest, “Thank you NYPD” shared a slightly different account of the incident on its main page alleging that one employee made the “Hands up, don’t shoot” gesture to a single officer and refused to serve him:
Chipotle confirmed on Monday that an incident did occur with police officers at that Brooklyn location, but disputed some of the key details.
Co-CEOs Steve Ells and Monty Moran said in a written statement provided to TPM on that on Dec. 16, a group of nine NYPD officers entered the restaurant and saw one employee raise his or her hands in “what appears to have been gesture of protest directed toward the NYPD.”
Ells and Moran said that the company reviewed the incident both in interviews with employees who were present and in video surveillance footage. The investigation concluded that the police officers left voluntarily after seeing the protest gesture and were not refused service, they said.
The co-CEOs said the company had taken “appropriate actions” to discipline the employee but would not elaborate on the specific actions taken.
“We work very hard to ensure that every customer in our restaurants feels welcome and is treated with respect,” they said. “Clearly, the actions of this crew member undermined that effort. In no way was the behavior of this crew member consistent with our culture and our values as a company.”
The New York Times reported in 2012 that same Brooklyn Chipotle location had offered a 50 percent discount to uniformed officers.
Read Chipotle’s full statement below:
On December 16 at approximately 6:15 PM, a group of nine New York police officers entered one of our restaurants in Brooklyn and saw one of our crew members raise their hands in what appears to have been gesture of protest directed toward the NYPD.
Since being notified of this incident, we have conducted a review of the incident including interviews with the crew and a review of video footage from security cameras. 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. Our investigation also shows that the officers were not refused service, but instead chose to leave after encountering this gesture and while still waiting in line.
We work very hard to ensure that every customer in our restaurants feels welcome and is treated with respect. Clearly, the actions of this crew member undermined that effort. In no way was the behavior of this crew member consistent with our culture and our values as a company. We have taken appropriate actions with regard to the crew member involved, but we are not at liberty to discuss the specific actions taken.
Additionally, we have reiterated to our team the importance of making all of our customers feel welcome in our restaurants. We have also apologized to many of the people who have contacted us regarding this issue. Above all, we would like to apologize to the officers involved in this incident. We have proudly served law enforcement officers in our restaurants around the country for the last 21 years and we continue to do so every day. We greatly respect the service they provide and welcome them into our restaurants.
Steve Ells & Monty Moran