Man Arrested at Starbucks Had Been Customer for 8 Years

Rashon Nelson says he feared for his life as he and longtime pal Donte Robinson were taken to jail
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 19, 2018 8:41 AM CDT
Starbucks Arrest: Man Wondered If He'd Make It Home Alive
In this photo from Wednesday, Rashon Nelson, left, listens as and Donte Robinson address a reporter's question during an interview with the AP in Philadelphia.   (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

Rashon Nelson initially brushed it off when the Starbucks manager told him he couldn't use the restroom because he wasn't a paying customer, and when he and his business partner, Donte Robinson, were approached at their table and asked if they needed help. The 23-year-old entrepreneurs declined, explaining they were just waiting for a business meeting. A few minutes later, police walked into the coffee shop and in their direction. "That's when we knew she called the police on us," Nelson tells the AP in the men's first interview since video of their April 12 arrests went viral. Nelson and Robinson, black men who became best friends in the fourth grade, were taken in handcuffs from the Philadelphia Starbucks where Robinson has been a customer since he was 15.

"We were there for a real reason, a real deal that we were working on," Robinson explains. "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.'" He thought about his loved ones as he was taken to jail; Nelson wondered if he'd make it home alive. The pair spent hours in a jail cell with no outside contact until they were released after midnight, when the DA declined to prosecute them for trespassing. The men are in mediation proceedings with Starbucks to implement changes, including the posting in stores of a customer bill of rights and the adoption of new policies regarding customer ejections. Robinson says he appreciates the support they've received but that anger and boycotting Starbucks aren't the solution. "We need a different type of action. We do want a seat at the table." More from Nelson and Robinson here.

(More Starbucks stories.)

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