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Starbucks victims settle for $1 each, $200K for entrepreneurs, unknown sum from Starbucks

The two Philly men arrested in a Center City Starbucks reached a "symbolic" settlement with the city of Philadelphia, while Starbucks will pay their student loans.
Protestors stand outside a Philly Starbucks days after two black men were arrested there. (Kait Moore)

Two black men arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks for not ordering anything have settled their complaint with the city for one dollar each, and $200,000 to help high school students get started as entrepreneurs. The company itself has agreed to pay them a "confidential" sum, their attorneys said.

“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,” Donte Robinson, who was arrested along with Rashon Nelson in the Rittenhouse Starbucks on April 12 in an incident that sparked national controversy, told the Associated Press of their settlement with Philadelphia. “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.”

The city of Philadelphia agreed to allocate $200,000 in funds to a new School District program for young entrepreneurs at public high schools as part of the settlement.

Nelson and Robinson were allegedly in the Starbucks at 19th and Spruce streets waiting to meet a man about a real estate deal, when one of them was told by a manager they would have to leave if they didn't place an order. Minutes later, they said, Philadelphia police officers entered the cafe and arrested them, in an incident caught on cellphone video that quickly went viral. They were detained for about eight hours and released without being charged.

Mayor Jim Kenney voiced his support for the settlement, noting they had chosen to avoid a costly, drawn-out lawsuit.

“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. Rather than spending time, money, and resources to engage in a potentially adversarial process, 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,” Kenney said in a statement. “I am pleased to have resolved the potential claims against the city in this productive manner."

Meanwhile, the Starbucks corporation settled their dispute with Nelson and Robinson by agreeing to a confidential financial settlement, their attorneys said. The company is also bringing them on to work with former US attorney general Eric Holder to advise the company on diversity matters, and offering them aid in completing college. 

CEO Kevin Johnson has previously apologized for the incident and announced that Starbucks' 8,000 US locations will close on May 29 for company-wide, mandatory "implicit bias training."