Black Men Arrested at Starbucks Speak Out for the First Time After Backlash Against Company
The pair is telling their side of the story for the first time since the incident went viral.
Following the arrest of two black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks last Thursday, which went viral and prompted many to accuse the coffee chain of racial discrimination, the men in the video are speaking out for the first time.
In an interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America on Thursday, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson said that they showed up to Starbucks at approximately 4:35 p.m. for a real estate meeting that was set to take place at 4:45. According to police reports, a Starbucks employee made a phone call to the police department at 4:37 p.m., approximately two minutes after the pair had entered the store.
As previously reported, Nelson said he asked to use the restroom immediately after walking in, but was told they were for paying customers only so he “left it at that.” Nelson said he then went to find Robinson at a table when the employee approached them and asked them if she could help with anything. Roberts pointed out that the men claim they were never asked to leave, just that they couldn’t use the restroom unless they purchased something.
When the police showed up, Robinson said his first reaction was disbelief. “Initially, as soon as they approached us, they just said we have to leave,” Nelson said. “There was no question of, ‘Was there a problem here between you guys and the manager?,’ No ‘What happened?'”
Even though the men tried to explain they were waiting for a business meeting, they were subsequently arrested.
“After the first time they walk over and said ‘you have to leave,’ I say ‘we’re here for a meeting,'” Robinson explained. He also said he offered to call the person they were supposed to meet.
The men said they weren’t told why they were being arrested. “We weren’t read any rights, nothing” Robinson said. “Just double-locked, handcuffed behind our back, and escorted out and put in a squad car.”
According to GMA, their lawyer Stewart Cohen said the men are not considering civil suits against Starbucks or the city.
“I want to make sure this situation doesn’t happen again,” Robinson said. “So what I want, is for a young man or young men to not be traumatized by this and instead be motivated, inspired.”
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson previously appeared on GMA condemning the incident as “completely inappropriate” and “reprehensible,” and offering a personal apology to Robinson and Nelson. The company subsequently announced they were closing all of their locations on May 29 for racial bias training.
“While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution,” Johnson said. “Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities.”
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Nelson said that the pair hope for “true change” and for people to take action against the problem instead of just using their words.
“This is something that has been going on for years, and everyone’s blind to it, but they know it’s going on, if you get what I mean,” Nelson said. “[We want to] help people understand that it’s not just a black people thing. This is a people thing.”