The two black men police arrested last Thursday for "defiant trespassing" at a Philadelphia Starbucks have spoken out about their experience, saying that they feared for their lives during the arrest.
The two men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, spoke to The Associated Press, where they discussed the arrest and expressed their shock at the way the events of the day unfolded.
According to Nelson, he wasn't fazed when a Starbucks manager told him he wouldn't be able to use the bathroom if he hadn't made a purchase. When an employee approached his table, which he shared with Robinson, and asked the two men if they needed help, Nelson told the employee that he and Robinson were waiting on a business colleague to meet up for a meeting, and said he still didn't believes anything was amiss.
Even when two police officers entered the store, Nelson and Robinson didn't think for one second that law enforcement was at the store because of them.
That's when the cops headed their way, and things changed.
@Starbucks 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. pic.twitter.com/0U4Pzs55Ci
— Melissa DePino (@missydepino) April 12, 2018
The AP reported that Robinson — who is 23 years old, like Nelson — had been a customer of that Starbucks since he was 15 years old.
What are they saying?
"We were there for a real reason, a real deal that we were working on," Robinson told the AP. "We put in a lot of time, energy, effort. ... 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.'"
Robinson, who appeared on Thursday's "Good Morning America" along with Nelson, told the show's co-hosts, "It just didn't hit me what was going on, that it was real, until I'm being double locked with my hands behind my back."
As law enforcement arrested the two friends, Nelson said that he "thought about his loved ones" and "how the afternoon had taken such a turn," according to the AP.
Nelson "wondered if he'd make it home alive."
"Anytime I’m encountered by cops, I can honestly say it’s a thought that runs through my mind," Nelson explained. "You never know what’s going to happen."
He added that police didn't even question the duo after showing up — they simply told him and Robinson to leave.
"When you know that you did nothing wrong, how do you really react to it?" Nelson said. "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."
Nelson and Robinson insist that the Starbucks manager — who is no longer working for the company — unfairly profiled the two based on their race.
Police released the two without any charges on Friday.
What changes do they want?
Nelson and Robinson now say that they want to effect change and, according to the AP, are "in mediation proceedings with Starbucks to implement changes."
Some of those changes included "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."
"We need a different type of action ... not words," Robinson explained. "It’s a time to pay attention and understand what’s really going on. We do want a seat at the table."
During their Thursday "Good Morning America" appearance, Nelson and Robinson added that have high hopes that their experience serves as a "stepping stone" to stop similar incidents from ever occurring again.
"Take this opportunity as a stepping stone to really stand up and show your greatness," Nelson explained. "You are not judged by the color of your skin, as your ancestors were."
Starbucks announced on Tuesday that it will close 8,000 stores on May 29 to provide racial-bias training to about 175,000 store associates.