by Erik Ortiz
The two black men whose arrest at a Philadelphia Starbucks last month set off a wave of protests against the coffee giant for discrimination have reached a settlement with the city, the mayor’s office said Wednesday.
They will each be paid $1.
In addition, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, both 23, will release the city and employees of all claims in exchange for the creation of a $200,000 fund that, through the help of a nonprofit organization, will assist young entrepreneurs in Philadelphia.
Robinson and Nelson will also serve on a committee to establish and award the grant, which will focus on starting a pilot curriculum for public high school students to attain the skills to become business owners.
The mayor’s office said neither Nelson, Robinson nor their attorneys will receive any payment from the grant funds. The money will come from the budget of the city’s Finance Department.
“I am pleased to have resolved the potential claims against the City in this productive manner,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “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.”
He added that Robinson and Nelson approached the city with the idea “in an attempt to make something positive come of this.”
Seattle-based Starbucks Corp. previously apologized for the April 12 arrests of Nelson and Robinson while they sat inside a location in the city’s wealthier Rittenhouse Square neighborhood waiting for a business meeting — an act that observers say is hardly uncommon.
A video of the incident went viral, and provoked accusations of racism against police and the company.
The store manager who called 911 on the men as they waited was no longer with that store.
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson in a statement Thursday said a financial settlement has been reached and thanked the men for their “willingness to reconcile.”
“I welcome the opportunity to begin a relationship with them to share learnings and experiences,” he said.
A lawyer for Nelson and Robinson did not immediately return a request for comment.
The coffee chain on May 29 plans to close more than 8,000 U.S. stores for an afternoon to train nearly 175,000 workers in “racial-bias education.”
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross first defended the officers’ actions in arresting the men, but later apologized. He told reporters that the men had not purchased anything and refused to leave.
Nelson and Robinson were eventually let go after about eight hours in police custody, with a spokesman for the district attorney’s office saying there was a “lack of evidence” that a crime had been committed. Starbucks did not press any charges.
Demonstrators still voiced their outrage in protests and said the arrests had become a flash point for how businesses might treat people of color differently than white customers. They carried signs saying, “Too Little Too Latte,” and “Shame on You Starbucks.”
Robinson, who said he’s been a Starbucks customer since he was 15, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the agreement with the city of Philadelphia was the right decision.
“We thought long and hard about it and we feel like this is the best way to see that change that we want to see,” he said. “It’s not a right-now thing that’s good for right now, but I feel like we will see the true change over time.”