WASHINGTON, April 19 (Reuters) - Two black men who were arrested at a Starbucks Corp cafe in Philadelphia while waiting for a friend said on Thursday they hoped the widely publicized incident would lead to changes in U.S. racial attitudes.
The men, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that they wanted to use their arrests a week ago to ensure no one else would undergo a similar experience.
The incident is an “opportunity as a stepping stone to really stand up and show your greatness and that you are not judged by the color of your skin,” Nelson said.
“It’s not just a black people thing, it’s a people thing.”
Footage of the incident, which was filmed by an onlooker, was widely circulated online. It sparked protests and a decision by Starbucks to close more than 8,000 stores on May 29 to conduct racial-bias training for employees.
Robinson said the incident was more about “what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong.”
The incident put Starbucks, which prides itself on diversity and inclusiveness, at the center of a social media storm after the cafe manager’s decision to call police on Nelson and Robinson.
The men had not made a purchase and were waiting on a friend to discuss a real estate deal. A female manager, who has since been fired, called police within two minutes of the pair’s arrival, according to the men’s account of the incident. They were released without charges.
The video of the arrest has been viewed almost 11 million times.
“It didn’t really hit me what was going on, that this was real, until I’m being double-locked with my hands behind my back,” Robinson said.
The men’s attorney, Stewart Cohen, said on the show that they were engaged in mediation with Starbucks, with a retired federal judge as arbitrator.
Starbucks also has turned to co-founder and Executive Chairman Howard Schultz to emphasize its commitment to offering a “safe space” to customers. (Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Bernadette Baum)