The two Black men who were racially profiled and arrested at Starbucks this past weekend broke their silence Thursday morning, telling Good Morning America that they “want to make sure this situation doesn’t happen again.”
Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were wrongfully arrested at a Philadelphia location while waiting for a friend to show up for a meeting. They told Good Morning America that it was a real estate-related meeting that they hoped would “change [their] lives.”
According to Nelson, he tried to ask to use the restroom as soon as they arrived, but he was denied access because he needed to buy something first. When they sat down to wait for the meeting, an employee came out from behind the register and asked them if they planned to order anything. They did not because they had arrived at the meeting with their own water.
The police arrived to arrest them soon after.
A video of their arrest has gone viral. In it, the two men can be seen being escorted out of the venue by six police officers.
“The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything,” tweeted author Melissa DePino, who witnessed the incident. “They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing.”
Nelson and Robinson had only been waiting for two minutes before the cops were called.
“This is something that has been going on for years and everyone’s blind to it, but they know what’s going on,” they said.
“The video shot by customers is very hard to watch and the actions in it are not representative of our Starbucks Mission and Values,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement “Creating an environment that is both safe and welcoming for everyone is paramount for every store.”
The company announced it will close 8,000 locations on May 29 to provide racial-bias training to about 175,000 workers.
As for Nelson and Robinson, they said that the police didn’t read them their rights before they were handcuffed. They have not ruled out taking legal action against Starbucks in the coming weeks.
“I want to make sure that … this situation doesn’t happen again,” Robinson said on the show. “So what I want is for a young man or young men to not be traumatized by this and instead motivated, inspired.”
In an interview with the the Associated Press, Nelson said that he feared for his life during his arrest: “Anytime I’m encountered by cops, I can honestly say it’s a thought that runs through my mind. You never know what’s going to happen.”