Westporters turn out to support former Starbucks employee allegedly harassed by customer
WESTPORT — More than 50 people gathered outside the downtown Starbucks Friday in two rallies to show support for a former employee who alleged a female customer harassed him at work for nearly a year, including calling him racial slurs multiple times.
“My hands shake and I tear up just allowing someone that HATES ME and calls me a (N-word) to come into my space and ruin my whole shift,” the barista, Dayshawn Rodriguez, alleged in a recent Instagram post.
A Starbucks spokesperson said Thursday the company was made aware of the social media post and the woman is no longer allowed at Starbucks in either Westport or neighboring towns.
“None of our partners should feel harassed while in our stores and we take these matters seriously,” the spokesperson said. “Our stores are a place of community, where everyone is welcome, provided they contributed to a positive environment and an enjoyable experience.”
The spokesperson also said local company leadership has made attempts to speak with Rodriguez to update him on the actions taken and to ensure he felt supported while the incidents are being investigated. Starbucks did not provide details of the investigation.
According to police, Rodriguez has not filed any charges against the woman and did not want police involvement.
“That being said, things were left open-ended in our conversation with him, and should he request a criminal investigation into this situation, that certainly remains an option for him in the future,” said Anthony Prezioso, the Westport police spokesman.
Rodriguez’s social media post drew more than 14,000 likes; many of the participants at Friday’s rallies said they saw it and it spurred them to action. A petition started on change.org has also garnered more than 6,000 signatures.
The first rally, slated for 8 a.m, was attended by town elected officials — including all of the Board of Selectmen — and residents who said they went to show support of Rodriguez.
“I love that the community is coming out for me. I feel the love from Westport,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not an issue with Westport, it’s just an issue with (Starbucks) management.”
Frustrated who Starbucks handled the situation, Rodriguez said he left his job earlier this week; a GoFundMe page was started to support him as he looks for future employment.
Darcy Hicks, of DefenDemocracy of CT, who organized the first rally, said it was important Westporters stand in solidarity with Rodriguez.
“As a largely white and privileged community, we’re obligated to stand up and speak out against racism,” she said.
Hicks said she only learned of the allegations from the Instagram post and it was unfortunate Rodriguez’s voice was not heard sooner.
Rodriguez, however, said he made multiple complaints to management but it took his social media post to get results. Citing the ongoing investigation, Starbucks’ spokesperson declined to comment on Rodriguez’s allegations that his bosses did nothing.
“They finally did something,” Rodriguez said, “because you guys are here and because the Westport people said something.”
TEAM Westport Chairman Harold Bailey Jr., who became aware of the situation through the social media post, said what Rodriguez allegedly experienced was unacceptable.
“Our real focus is to get him the support he needs internally from Starbucks,” he said. “The town is fully behind making sure he feels safe, feels comfortable coming to work and we have to make sure it’s the same inside.”
A second rally at 10 a.m, organized by Fairfield Yabantu, an organization that looks to address inequality in America, drew a crowd large enough that police blocked off parts of the downtown for the protesters.
Tre Kayumba of Fairfield Yabantu said Rodriguez’s claim of not having his voice heard until white people spoke up showed what Black people face in America.
“The bottom line is this: If we’re going to address racism and dismantle the systems, we have to be moved to seeing and recognizing the humanity of Black people,” he said. “I’m happy we’re here to do that.”