Two black men arrested at Starbucks settle with Philadelphia for $1 each

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Two African American men arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks last month have reached a settlement with the city and secured its commitment to a pilot program for young entrepreneurs.

Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson chose not to pursue a lawsuit against the city, Mike Dunn, a spokesman for the city of Philadelphia, told The Washington Post. Instead, they agreed to a symbolic payment of $1 each and asked the city to fund $200,000 for a grant program for high school students aspiring to become entrepreneurs.

“This was an incident that evoked a lot of pain in our city, pain that would’ve resurfaced over and over again in protracted litigation, which presents significant legal risks and high financial and emotional costs for everyone involved,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement.

Kenney said Nelson and Robinson approached the city as partners “to make something positive come of this.”

Funds for the $200,000 program will come from the city’s Finance Department budget, Dunn said. The city, Nelson and Robinson will work together on developing a committee to award the grants.

The city has also invited Robinson, Nelson and their attorneys to submit thoughts and recommendations to the City Solicitor on other ways of promoting equality in public places, including restaurants and retail establishments.

When asked whether the grant will focus on helping young entrepreneurs of color, Dunn said “we are still working out those details.”

Cohen, Placitella and Roth, the Philadelphia law firm representing Nelson and Robinson, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Also on Wednesday, Starbucks announced that it had reached an agreement with Nelson and Robinson that will include an undisclosed financial settlement “as well as continued listening and dialogue between the parties and specific action and opportunity.”

Starbucks executive Kevin Johnson said he welcomed the chance to begin a relationship with Nelson and Robinson. “Starbucks will continue to take actions that stem from this incident to repair and reaffirm our values and vision for the kind of company we want to be,” Johnson said in a statement.

A company news release said more details “will be provided in a mutually agreed public statement.”

[Starbucks arrests: Who gets to decide whether you’re a patron or a trespasser?]

In an April 18 interview with CBS This Morning, Schultz said he hoped to work with Nelson and Robinson and use Starbucks’s resources to advise and support their business ventures.

“We will provide them with a foundation of learning and provide them with an opportunity to be part of our company either directly or indirectly as a result of this situation,” Schultz told co-host Gayle King.

On April 12, Nelson and Robinson arrived 10 minutes early for a business meeting at a Starbucks in the Center City neighborhood of Philadelphia and wound up leaving the location in handcuffs. Upon arriving, Nelson asked whether he could use the restroom, and was told by a white manager that the restrooms were only for paying customers.

“And I just left it at that,” Nelson told Good Morning America last month.

After Nelson returned to the table where Robinson was sitting, the manager approached them to ask whether she could help get them any drinks or water.

Two minutes later, she called the police to report that “two gentlemen in my cafe that are refusing to make a purchase or leave.” Officers arrived a few minutes later. Robinson recalled thinking “they can’t be here for us.”

Nelson told Good Morning America that the police told him and Robinson that they had to leave without any discussion. They were then arrested, and Robinson said they were not read any rights or told why they were being arrested.

Charges of trespassing and creating a disturbance were dropped that night.

Shortly after Nelson and Robinson told their story, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross personally apologized and said that if he had done anything to worsen race relations in the city, “shame on me.” Ross had previously said the officers involved “did absolutely nothing wrong.”

Last month, Starbucks announced it would close 8,000 stores for racial-bias training on May 29. Johnson, as well as the company’s executive chairman, Howard Schultz, met with Nelson and Robinson personally to apologize.

As protests broke out at the Philadelphia Starbucks, Johnson and Schultz appeared in television interviews to pledge that the company would work to combat unconscious bias and racial profiling among its employees.

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