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Black Man Arrested at Starbucks: Anger, Boycotts Not Solution


Donte Robinson listens to a reporter's question during an interview with the Associated Press Wednesday April 18, 2018 in Philadelphia. His arrest, along with Rashon Nelson at a local Starbucks quickly became a viral video and galvanized people around the country who saw the incident as modern-day racism.

One of the two African American men whose arrests last week in a Starbucks coffee shop in Philadelphia sparked cries of modern-day racism, protests and calls for a nationwide boycott, says anger and boycotts are not the solution.

"We need a different type of action ... not words," Donte Robinson said in an interview with the Associated Press. "It's time to pay attention and understand what's really going on. We do want a seat at the table."

Robinson and his business partner, Rashon Nelson, were arrested shortly after they declined a request for service, explaining they were waiting for a business meeting. They had arrived a few minutes early for the meeting with Andrew Yaffe, a white local businessman, who can seen in a video recording of the event demanding an explanation for the police officers' actions.

Nelson and Robinson told the Associated Press they spent hours in jail with no outside contact and no idea the video of their arrests had gone viral.

Nelson said he had questioned whether he would return home alive. "Anytime I'm encountered by the cops, I can honestly say it's a thought that runs through my mind," Nelson said. "You never know what's going to happen."

Protesters gather outside a Starbucks in Philadelphia, April 15, 2018, where two black men were arrested Thursday after Starbucks employees called police to say the men were loitering.
Protesters gather outside a Starbucks in Philadelphia, April 15, 2018, where two black men were arrested Thursday after Starbucks employees called police to say the men were loitering.

Sitting in a jail cell, the 23-year-old entrepreneurs thought about their next step. "Do you let it slide, like we let everything else slide with injustice," Nelson asked? Robinson continued to focus on the previous day's business deal and called Yaffe to reschedule the meeting.

Nelson and Robinson were later released because of a lack of evidence that a crime had been committed.

Starbucks said Tuesday it will close all of its more than 8,000 company-owned U.S. stores on May 29 to educate employees about racial bias, in an attempt to prevent more acts of discrimination.

"I've spent the past 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," said CEO Kevin Johnson. "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."

Customers buy coffee at a Starbucks store in Washington, DC, April 19, 2018. (Photo: Diaa Bekheet)
Customers buy coffee at a Starbucks store in Washington, DC, April 19, 2018. (Photo: Diaa Bekheet)

The coffeehouse chain, which is also closing its corporate offices on May 29, said a curriculum is being developed for its 175,000 employees, with assistance from several racial bias training experts. They include Equal Justice Initiative executive director Bryan Stevenson, NAACP Legal Defense Education Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill and former attorney general Eric Holder.

Starbucks said the employee who called police on the men no longer worked at that location.

Johnson, who has met with the men, called the arrests "reprehensible."

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