Possibly a silly question here, but I was thinking about this today and was curious.
Back on February 1, 1960, four African-American college students sat at the whites only section of the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, and asked to be served. The lunch counter refused and the manager asked them to leave. The students refused, and stayed until closing. In the following days, more and more people joined the protest.
My question is, why didn’t the manager call in the police to remove the students? If you ask someone to leave your store and they refuse, calling the police is the next step to kick someone off the property. Why wasn’t it done?
One likely guess. It’s entirely possible that as long as the protestors didn’t do anything but sit there, the managers didn’t want to risk escalating things and starting a fight inside their store.
And remember, African-Americans were allowed to shop at Woolworth’s (they just weren’t allowed service at the lunch counters.) If the police were brought in, it’s likely the sit-in would have turned into a full-fledged boycott.
Another guess is that management was sympathetic with the protest: they segregated the lunch counter to satisfy the expectations of the majority of their white customers, but would have been happy to de-segregate. Not every white person in North Carolina was racially prejudiced: if they had been, the protest would not have been successful.