Dozens of people held a demonstration outside the Center City Starbucks where two black men were arrested earlier this month.
Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, as well as 50 to 60 protesters, made up mostly of members of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, gathered outside the Starbucks on 1801 Spruce Street Sunday around 3 p.m. Sunday Organizers say they are rallying in support of their fraternity brother Rashon Nelson along with his business associate Donte Robinson.
Nelson and Robinson, both 23, were inside the Starbucks back on April 12 and waiting for a third person to arrive for a business meeting. The manager of the store called police on them after they asked to use the bathroom, were denied because they hadn’t bought anything, and sat at a table. In a 911 call, the manager told the dispatcher Nelson and Robinson were "refusing to make a purchase or leave."
The manager made the call at 4:37 p.m. Nelson and Robinson told "Good Morning America" they had entered the store at 4:35 p.m.
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Officers arrived at the store at 4:40 p.m. and they requested backup and a supervisor, claiming Nelson and Robinson were causing a disturbance. As many as seven responding Philadelphia police officers then arrested the two men.
The third person Nelson and Robinson were waiting for, Andrew Yaffe, who works in real estate in Philadelphia, arrived as they were being hauled off in handcuffs. After spending hours in a jail cell, they were released after Starbucks declined to press trespassing charges.
"Knowing Rashon personally, the kind of man he is, college student, college graduate and a very personable young man, it was an absolute shock to me," said Reese Lovelace, a friend of Nelson's and member of Omega Psi Phi.
Video of the arrest sparked outrage, protests and calls to boycott the chain of 28,000 Starbucks stores worldwide.
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson called the incident "reprehensible" and also met with the two men. The men also met with Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Richard Ross. Ross apologized to the two men and admitted he “failed miserably” in addressing the arrests in a previous video message in which he defended how police handled the incident.
Starbucks plans to close all of its more than 8,000 US stores on May 29 for racial bias training in light of the incident.