In their first interviews describing their ordeal, the two black men who were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks while waiting for a meeting said that they appreciate the support they have received, but calls to boycott the company will not ultimately prove fruitful.
“We need a different type of action … not words,” Donte Robinson, who was arrested along with his friend Rashon Nelson, told the Associated Press. “It’s a time to pay attention and understand what’s really going on. We do want a seat at the table.”
Robinson and Nelson were arrested last week at a Starbucks in Rittenhouse Square, an upscale neighborhood in Philadelphia, while they were waiting to meet a friend to discuss a possible business deal. The men had requested to use the restroom, but the manager said they could not because they hadn’t purchased anything. Another bystander in the Starbucks videotaped the arrest, and the video quickly ricocheted across the internet, causing outrage and raising questions about issues of racial bias.
Although no charges were filed against the men and they were ultimately released, after spending hours in jail, Nelson said that he feared for his life.
“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,” he told the AP. Robinson told Good Morning America they were never read their Miranda rights.
Starbucks has strongly condemned the arrests. CEO Kevin Johnson has called the event “reprehensible,” and the company announced it would close 8,000 company stores for several hours on Tuesday, May 29, for employees to undergo racial bias training. But for Nelson and Robinson, the event still represents the lost opportunity of a potentially fruitful business deal.
“We were there for a real reason, a real deal that we were working on,” Robinson told the AP. “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.’”