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Black men arrested at Starbucks break their silence about their confusion and anger over 'racist' incident
Ross' apology came at a news conference on the same day the men -- Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson -- told ABC's "Good Morning America" they were handcuffed within minutes of arriving at the store April 12 for a business meeting.
Ross said he was not aware that Starbucks allows people to sit in stores without making a purchase.
"I can appreciate, in light of the Starbucks policy and how well known it is to many, why these two men were appalled when asked to leave and for this reason, me, I apologize to them," Ross told reporters.
'They are refusing to make a purchase': Philadelphia cops release Starbucks manager's 911 call that led to two black men being arrested and sparked coffee chain boycott
The black men who were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks last week have broken their silence to speak out about the 'racist' incident that has angered many across the country.
Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, two men who became best friends in the fourth grade, were taken in handcuffs from the Starbucks in Philadelphia's tony Rittenhouse Square neighborhood on April 12, where Robinson has been a customer since he was 15.
The video, recorded on a white customer's cellphone video, galvanized people around the country who saw the exchange as modern-day racism. In the week since, the men have met with Starbucks' CEO and have started pushing for lasting changes to ensure what happened to them doesn't happen to anyone else.
Rashon Nelson, left, and Donte Robinson, right, are the two black men who were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks last week, in what many believe was a 'racist' incident
The two men spoke out for the first time in interviews with Good Morning America and the Associated Press on Thursday, saying they showed up to the Starbucks 10 minutes before a 4:45pm meeting.
As soon as they arrived, Nelson went to ask to use the restroom while his friend found them a table
But a manager, Holly Hylton, told him that the restrooms 'were for paying customers only,' so he decided to take his seat and wait until their meeting.
'I just left it at that at that moment,' he told Good Morning America.
Soon after however, Robinson says the manager came out from behind the register to speak to them.
On Thursday, Nelson, left, and Robinson, right, spoke out about the incident for the first time. The two are pictured above on Wednesday
The two, friends since the fourth grade, are in mediation with Starbucks to make sure a similar incident never happens again
Nelson and Robinson are being represented by lawyer Stewart Cohen (pictured above on Wednesday)
'We're at the table, we sit down we're just talking amongst each other. She comes from around the register and walks up to ask if she can help us with anything, can we start with some drinks or water or something like that,' Robinson says.
Robinson says they declined and said they were 'just waiting for a meeting' and 'we'll be out really quick'.
But about two minutes after they arrived at the cafe, the manager called 911 and said that they were 'refusing to make a purchase'.
When three officers arrived not long after, the two were certain that they were coming for someone else, since they knew they hadn't done anything wrong. In fact, they pointed out that they had never even been told to leave.
The officers came up to them and told them to leave immediately, not asking any questions about what had happened, Nelson said.
'As soon as they approached us they just said we have to leave. There was no question of "was there a problem here between you and the manager?"' Nelson said.
The viral video that prompted the scandal showed police talking with the two black men while they were seated at a table. After several minutes they handcuffed the men and led them away
Robinson said the officers didn't even explain what charges they were being arrested on.
'We wasn't read any rights. Nothing, just double lock handcuffs behind our backs and escorted out and put in a squad car,' Robinson said.
Andrew Yaffe, the white local businessmen they were meeting, showed up as the men were being handcuffed. He can be seen in the video demanding an explanation for the officers' actions. Nelson and Robinson did not resist arrest, confused and unsure of what to think or what might happen next.
Manager Holly Hylton (pictured) is no longer employed by Starbucks after the incident
'When you know that you did nothing wrong, how do you really react to it?' Nelson told the Associated Press. 'You can either be ignorant or you can show some type of sophistication and act like you have class. That was the choice we had.'
Robinson said it didn't really hit him what was happening until he was being handcuffed.
'I was just trying to process the situation to myself at the time because I'm thinking abot my family, that I have my community, so in that moment I'm trying to process what's going on because it didn't really hit me what was going on - that it was real - until I'm being double locked and my hands are behind my back,' he said.
It was hardly their first encounter with police, a rite of passage that becomes a regular occurrence for many black men their age. But neither had been arrested before, setting them apart from many of their peers in the gritty southwest Philadelphia neighborhood where they grew up.
Robinson briefly wondered what he might've done to bring the moment on himself.
'I feel like I fell short,' he explained. 'I'm trying to think of something I did wrong, to put not just me but my brother, my lifelong friend ... in this situation.'
Attorney Stewart Cohen, representing Nelson and Robinson, said the men were illegally profiled. He pointed to Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in hotels, restaurants, theaters and other public accommodations.
Seattle-based Starbucks Corp. has said the location where the arrests occurred has a policy that restrooms are for paying customers only.
Starbucks founder Howard Schultz told CBS This Morning: 'I'm embarrassed, ashamed. I think what occurred was reprehensible at every single level'
The incident sparked accusations of racial profiling at the coffee chain and prompted activists to start protesting at the Philadelphia store on April 16
Nelson and Robinson spent hours in a jail cell with no outside contact and no sense of what would happen next. They were released after midnight, when the district attorney declined to prosecute them for trespassing. They had no idea the video of their arrests was making the rounds on the internet.
The day after their arrests, they thought about what to do next.
'You go from being someone who's just trying to be an entrepreneur, having your own dreams and aspirations, and then this happens,' Nelson said. 'How do you handle it? Do you stand up? Do you fight? Do you sit down and just watch everyone else fight for you? Do you let it slide, like we let everything else slide with injustice?'
Robinson, still focused on the previous day's business deal, called Yaffe to reschedule. Yaffe told him about the video and the traction it had gotten.
Over the weekend, attention and outrage over the video grew, prompting a protest at the local Starbucks restaurant and a national boycott. By Monday, the men were set to meet with Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson to discuss what happened.
Johnson has responded quickly to public outcry around the arrests, calling them 'reprehensible,' apologizing and ordering stores closed for one day to undergo mandatory training to tackle unconscious bias.
Nelson and Robinson said they're looking for more lasting results and are in mediation proceedings with Starbucks to implement changes, including the posting in stores of a customer bill of rights; the adoption of new policies regarding customer ejections, racial profiling and racial discrimination; and independent investigations of complaints of profiling or discrimination from customers and employees. They do not plan to sue at this time.
Robinson said he appreciates the public support the men have received but anger and boycotting Starbucks are not the solution.
'We need a different type of action ... not words,' he said. 'It's a time to pay attention and understand what's really going on. We do want a seat at the table.'
Another STARBUCKS Racism VIDEO - REFUSES Black Customer Bathroom, Then Lets WHITE GUY IN (CULTURE OF RACISM?)
Police have released the 911 call a Philadelphia Starbucks manager made claiming that two black men wouldn't leave the store, which ultimately led to their arrests and widespread calls to boycott the coffee chain.
The brief 911 call, which was released by Philadelphia Police on Tuesday, shows manager Holly Hylton reporting the two men for not making a purchase at her store last week.
'Hi, I have two gentlemen at my cafe that are refusing to make a purchase or leave. I'm at the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce,' she said in the call made at 4.37pm last Thursday.
In addition to the 911 call, police also released several recordings that captured the communications between dispatch and officers en route to the Starbucks.
Brief 911 call, which was released by Philadelphia Police on Tuesday, shows manager Holly Hylton (above) reporting the two men for not making a purchase at the store last week
The audio indicates a police car was dispatched before officers called for backup and a supervisor to help with the 'disturbance at the Starbucks' involving a 'group of males.
Officers can then be heard saying they are going to make arrests and transport two men.
Footage filmed by a witness inside the store showed several police talking quietly with two black men seated at a table. After a few minutes, officers handcuff the men and lead them outside as other customers say they weren't doing anything wrong.
A white man identified as real estate developer Andrew Yaffe arrives and tells the officers the two men were waiting for him. An officer was captured on video saying the men were not complying and were being arrested for trespassing.
'Why would they be asked to leave?' Yaffe says in the video. 'Does anybody else think this is ridiculous? It's absolute discrimination.'
A woman can be heard saying: 'they didn't do anything, I saw the entire thing.'
Officials have said officers were told the men had asked to use the store's restroom but were denied because they hadn't bought anything and then refused to leave.
The men were later released without charge.
One of the young men was identified on Tuesday as Rashon Nelson - a college finance grad whose fraternity brothers across the country were now rallying behind him.
Nelson is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity's Alpha Eta chapter and graduated from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania last year.
The arrest incident has since sparked widespread backlash and protests at the Philadelphia store following accusations of racial profiling at the coffee chain.
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson arrived in Philadelphia this weekend after video of the arrests gained traction online and activists started protesting at the store.
Johnson met with the two men on Monday and apologized for the incident.
It has led to Starbucks announcing they will close nearly 8,000 of its US stores on May 29 in order to train 175,000 employees on preventing racial discrimination.
The manager who made the 911 call, Holly Hylton, has since 'mutually parted ways' with the coffee chain.
Hylton managed the Center City Philadelphia store for a year.
In 2014, a former co-worker wrote in a Facebook post that she wished Hylton was still in the store to help her translate for customers who only spoke Spanish
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, who is currently in Philadelphia, met with the two men on Monday and apologized for the incident
She previously worked at Chipotle from 2006 to 2010 and Smashburger from 2010 to 2014, according to her social media.
Hylton hails from Dayton, Ohio, but moved to Philadelphia in 2014 for graduate school at LaSalle University. She graduated in December with a masters in Spanish.
In 2014, a former co-worker wrote in a Facebook post that she wished Hylton was still in the store to help her translate for customers who only spoke Spanish.
'Ugggghhh I wish I was there! I took an order the other day in Spanish. We only get Chinese, Japanese, or Arabic speakers here. Rude!' Hylton replied on Facebook.
Hylton had previously claimed that loitering was an ongoing issue in the Philadelphia Starbucks.
She claims one person had once chased her around the shop after she asked them to leave.
A representative for Starbucks said on Monday that she had left the coffee chain 'while there is an internal review pending'.
The CEO has since said it was 'completely inappropriate to engage the police'.
The incident is a major blow to Starbucks' image, since the company has promoted its coffee shops as neighborhood hangouts where anyone is welcome.
Police officers monitor activity outside as protesters demonstrate inside the Starbucks store where the two men were arrested last Thursday
Rev. Gregory Holston, 56, (2nd R) and other Interfaith clergy leaders stage a sit-in at the Center City Starbucks
Local Black Lives Matter activist Asa Khalif, left, stands inside the Starbucks on Sunday demanding that the manager be fired
Police chief says his officers were RIGHT to arrest two black men at a Starbucks because they didn't order anything while waiting for a friend and refused to leave - Do you agree?
Now there's a SECOND video - showing Starbucks employees appearing to racially discriminate against a Black customer. The video, obtained by MTO News, shows a California Starbucks manager REFUSING to allow an African American man named Brandon Ward use of the bathroom - before making a purchase.
When the Brandon confronted the manager and attempted to ask WHY the manager appeared to racially discriminate against him - the manager threatened to have the man arrested.
Here's he video: RIGHT CLICK on VIDEO TO UNMUTE
This comes just two days after Starbucks CEO made a public apology for the FIRST incident in Philadelphia.
Just two days ago we reported that the Philadelphia Police department was allegedly under investigation for having two black male customers arrested for seemingly no reason. The officers were called and quickly arrested the two men - both REAL ESTATE AGENTS waiting for a client. The two Black men were placed in handcuffs and taken away, as other customers questioned the police's actions.
The woman who tweeted out the original video said that, "The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. 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."
Philadelphia's police commissioner has defended the two officers who were caught on camera arresting two black men in a Starbucks.
Videos posted online that have prompted outrage show the officers handcuffing the men in the downtown establishment on Thursday.
A white man in the video is heard saying he was meeting with the men and calls the arrest 'ridiculous'.
Commissioner Richard Ross, who is black, said on Saturday that Starbucks employees called 911 to say the men were trespassing.
He said officers were told that the men had come in and asked to use the restroom but were denied because they hadn't bought anything, as he said is company policy.
He said they then refused to leave.
Ross said police asked the men to leave three times but they refused, and they were then arrested but were later released after the company elected not to prosecute.
He said the officers 'did absolutely nothing wrong' and were professional in their conduct toward the individuals but 'got the opposite back.' He did not mention the person who said he was meeting with the men.
'As an African American male, I am very aware of implicit bias; we are committed to fair and unbiased policing,' Ross said.
But he added 'If a business calls and they say that 'Someone is here that I no longer wish to be in my business' (officers) now have a legal obligation to carry out their duties and they did just that.'
Social media users were outraged by the action of the officers and even encouraged people to boycott the popular coffee chain. On Saturday, the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks was trending on Twitter.
One user posted a photo of the milk in her coffee and said: 'At Starbucks you must be THIS white to sit at their tables'.
Other users called the altercation 'racism at its ugliest level' in America.
Commissioner Ross said that 'according to employees they had seen the two males come in, they sat down, and after being seated they decided they needed to use the restroom.
Starbucks said that according to the company policy they do not allow nonpaying members or nonpaying people to come in and use the restroom. And so they then asked these two males to leave. These two males refused to leave and the police were called,' he added.
He revealed that the officers on the scene called the Starbucks supervisor first to 'avoid the situation from getting out of hand'.
The officers then asked the males on three different occasions 'politely to leave the location because they were asked to leave by employees because they were trespassing'.
The men refused to budge.
He stressed that the males were not harmed in the arrest and were taken to the police district.
One user said they wanted to hear the 911 call from the employee who asked for cops to come in and assist the matter
Mayor Jim Kenney said he asked the city Commission on Human Relations to examine the company’s policies and procedures 'including the extent of, or need for, implicit bias training for its employees'
The two men were placed into handcuffs and escorted out of the video, which is shown in a viral video that has since garnered more than 3.2million views.
At first Starbucks released a statement on Friday saying: 'We're aware of the incident on Thursday in a Philadelphia store with 2 guests and law enforcement, resulting in their removal. We're reviewing the incident with our partners, law enforcement and customers to determine what took place and led to this unfortunate result.'
They issued a second statement Saturday.
'We apologize to the two individuals and our customers and are disappointed this led to an arrest. We take these matters seriously and clearly have more work to do when it comes to how we handle incidents in our stores. We are reviewing out policies and will continue to engage with the community and the police department to try to ensure these types of situations never happen in any of our stores,' the statement said.
Starbucks released a statement Saturday where it apologized to the two men. But one user thought the apology wasn't sufficient and decided to edit it themselves
Another user compared this incident to others that have occurred recently across the US. He mentioned the people who were mad about the teen who got into 20 colleges and the ex-firefighter who shot at a black teenager on his doorstep
But one Twitter user edited the statement to include that the moment was 'racial profiling' and 'racially motivated harassment'.
Mayor Jim Kenney said he asked the city Commission on Human Relations to examine the company’s policies and procedures 'including the extent of, or need for, implicit bias training for its employees'.
'I know Starbucks is reviewing it and we will be too. @PhillyPolice is conducting an internal investigation,' he tweeted on Saturday.
Starbucks' CEO Kevin Johnson expressed his 'deepest apologies' about the incident and plans to fly to Philadelphia to help correct the situation.
'I hope to meet personally with the two men who were arrested to offer a face-to-face apology,' Johnson said Saturday.
At the end of Ross' statement, he acknowledged the racial tension that is surrounding the incident.
'I will say that as an African American male I am very aware of implicit bias. We are committed to fair and unbiased policing and anything less than that will not be tolerated in this department,' he said.
The two black men who were arrested in the coffee shop have since been released and remain unidentified.
A spokesman for the district attorney's office said the men were released 'because of lack of evidence' that a crime had been committed, the Associated Press reported.