Two black men who were arrested for simply sitting in a Starbucks one week ago have settled their lawsuit with the city.
Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were taken into police custody on April 12 while waiting to meet a friend at a Starbucks in Philadelphia when the manager of the store reported the pair for refusing to purchase anything. A witness at the coffee shop recorded the entire ordeal, which saw Nelson and Robinson being led out of the store in handcuffs while a confused patron continued questioning the police about the arrest. The video soon went viral, sparking outrage on social media and prompting the Philadelphia Police Department to launch an internal investigation.
Starbucks issued a public apology to the two men and had plans to close its stores for an entire day of racial bias training but now the city is going one step further thanks to Nelson and Robinson, who settled their lawsuit for a symbolic $1 each and a promise from officials to set up a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.
The men’s lawyer along with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney detailed the agreement to the Associated Press with Kenney acknowledging how painful the experience had been for Nelson and Robinson and commending them on their commitment to giving back to the community.
“I am pleased to have resolved the potential claims against the city in this productive manner,” Kenney told the Associated Press. “This was an incident that evoked a lot of pain in our city and put us under a national spotlight for unwanted reasons.”
According to Robinson, the two men wanted something positive to come from their ordeal.
“We thought long and hard about it and we feel like this is the best way to see that change that we want to see,” Robinson said. “It’s not a right-now thing that’s good for right now, but I feel like we will see the true change over time.”
The viral video caused an uproar on social media last week with plenty of people coming to the defense of the two men, saying the situation is just further proof that being a Black man in America can be dangerous. The CEO of Starbucks, Kevin Johnson, flew out to Philadelphia after the incident to apologize in person to the two young men and work with them to ensure nothing like this happens again in his stores.
Hopefully, business owners and law enforcement can learn from this experience moving forward.