The Chain Gang

Chipotle Apologized for a Worker Who Used ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ Gesture in Front of Cops

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The symbol and act of protest that spread around the country following the grand-jury decisions in the Mike Brown and Eric Garner cases apparently also made its way behind the burrito counter at the Brooklyn Heights Chipotle earlier this month, and now the fast-casual restaurant chain’s chief executives have apologized in an official statement. Professional sports teams and dozens of congressional staffers have used the now-widespread “Hands up, don’t shoot” gesture, in addition to the thousands of demonstrators who’ve peacefully flooded the streets of New York and Washington, D.C., but it seems like the single incident in the chain restaurant was sufficient to invoke the anger of the carnitas-eating public.

The widely circulated initial report indicated that “several of the employees” had raised their hands and said “Hands up, don’t shoot” to a group of eight officers waiting for burritos. Upon reviewing security footage, however, the chain says the incident involved just one employee and nine police officers. It took place on December 16, four days before NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were fatally shot by Ismaaiyl Brinsley in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Updating an earlier apology, the chain yesterday reiterated that no one was refused service, and the officers left the restaurant. Here’s the full statement from Steve Ells and Monty Moran.


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 a 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

Despite the pledge of commitment to law enforcement and a Snopes debunking of the original report — a since-deleted, first-person account that had been posted on Facebook to an NYPD support page — the more inflammatory account is still being circulated. Some are claiming that Chipotle’s statement that “appropriate actions” were taken with the employee means that he or she was not fired after the incident, and they’re calling for a full boycott of the chain.

We have politely asked @ChipotleTweets to fire their anti-#nypd employee. They have refused. Now it’s on.— Charles C. Johnson (@ChuckCJohnson) December 29, 2014

@rfitzger71 @ChipotleTweets I promise you I won’t eat their food anymore until this is resolved and if it’s never resolved I am done— Wayne Dupree ★彡 (@WayneDupreeShow) December 29, 2014

[AP, Official Site]

Chipotle Apologized for a Worker Who Used ‘Hands Up, Don’t