The 23-year-old 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.
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.
‘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.