Philly Starbucks arrests

Black men arrested at Philly Starbucks decide not to sue the city, create scholarship instead

Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson also settled with the coffee giant for an undisclosed sum.

The Starbucks at 18th and Spruce

The Starbucks at 18th and Spruce

Google Street View

Updated 6:45 p.m.

After video of their arrest while waiting for a business meeting inside the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce in Rittenhouse went viral, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson had plenty of options as to what to do next. But instead of trying to reap personal rewards or extract satisfaction via a punitive lawsuit, they appear to have taken the high road in their dealings with the city.

On Wednesday, the City of Philadelphia announced the men had settled for a symbolic amount of $1, plus a promise by the city set up a $200,000 entrepreneurial scholarship for Philly public school students.

Nelson and Robinson also reached a financial settlement with Starbucks, the company said. The amount of the agreement has not yet been released.

The April 12 arrests became a touchstone in the national conversation about race, held up as an example of the unconscious bias many black Americans — and especially young black men — face every day. Rallies and protests held outside the store drew activists from all over, and Nelson and Robinson told their story on Good Morning America.

And though Philly Police Commissioner Richard Ross originally defended the arresting officers, saying they had “done nothing wrong,” he subsequently admitted the incident merited further investigation.

So Nelson and Robinson had public opinion on their side — and appeared to have good standing for a potential lawsuit. Yet they did not sue.

“Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson approached the City and invited us to partner with them in an attempt to make something positive come of this,” said Mayor Jim Kenney in a statement.

That “something positive” will come in the form of a $200,000 grant, which will be used to set up a nonprofit pilot program for Philly highschoolers with aspirations of becoming entrepreneurs.

The funds will come from the Finance Dept.’s budget, per a city spokesperson. The timeline and process for awarding the scholarship will be determined by a grant committee to be developed together by the city and Nelson and Robinson — neither of whom will receive any of the money directly.

“We thought long and hard about it,” Robinson told the Associated Press, “and we feel like this is the best way to see that change that we want to see.”

Starbucks still intends to close all 8,000 of its U.S. stores on May 29 for racial bias training.

Want some more? Explore other Philly Starbucks arrests stories.

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