The two black men arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks last week for “trespassing” said the manager didn’t waste any time calling the cops on them.
Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson told their story on ABC News’ “Good Morning America” Thursday, saying it was only two minutes after they entered the shop that the manager called 911 on them for trespassing. Several cops arrived and took them out in handcuffs, and it was captured on customer video that went viral, sparking several days of protests outside the shop and online.
Nelson said he'd asked the manager to use the bathroom as soon as he and Robinson, both 23, arrived at the Starbucks to have a business meeting. She denied him access because he wasn’t a paying customer, so Nelson and Robinson sat down at a table and waited for a third man to discuss a real estate deal, they said.
Within minutes, the manager approached the men and asked if they were ordering anything. The pair told her they were waiting to meet someone. In response, she called the police on them for trespassing. The woman has since left the company in a decision Starbucks called “mutual.”
“We were there for a real reason, a real deal that we were working on,” Robinson told the Associated Press. “We were at a moment that could have a positive impact on a whole ladder of people, lives, families. So I was like, ‘No, you’re not stopping that right now.’”
The two men also told “Good Morning America” that they weren’t read their Miranda rights when the cops arrested them. Philadelphia Police Officer Eric Mclaurin told VICE News on Thursday that the department has no comment on the issue.
He added that when the police first arrived, he assumed they weren’t there for him. But once they approached the two men, he said he was scared.
“Anytime I’m encountered by cops, I can honestly say it’s a thought that runs through my mind,” Nelson told the AP. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
Cell phone video of the incident has amassed over 11 million views on Twitter, leading to multiple protests and a condemnation from Philly Mayor Jim Kenney. Starbucks released a public apology, and its CEO Kevin Johnson met with the mayor, community leaders, and Nelson and Robinson earlier this week to apologize on behalf of the company, according to a press release. The chain is also planning to conduct racial bias training for all employees.
“We have a situation – and the people at the center of it have come together with civility, common purpose, and a willingness to listen and work toward a solution,” the release read.
“I’ve spent the last few days in Philadelphia with my leadership team listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it,” Johnson said in a press release. “While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution. 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.”
More than 8,000 company-owned stores in the U.S. will be closed on the afternoon of May 29 to provide training about implicit bias, conscious inclusion, and discrimination to the chain’s nearly 175,000 employees nationwide.
“The company's founding values are based on humanity and inclusion,” executive chairman Howard Schultz said in a press release. “We will learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every customer.”
Cover image : Rashon Nelson listens to a reporter's question alongside Donte Robinson during an interview with the Associated Press Wednesday April 18, 2018 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)