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One of the men arrested at a Philly Starbucks: This is not a 'black people thing, it's a people thing'

Matthew J. Belvedere
  • Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, who were arrested a week ago at a Philadelphia Starbucks, tell ABC News they hope what happened to them never happens again.
  • Starbucks plans to close all company-owned locations in the U.S. during the afternoon of May 29 for racial-bias training.

The two black men who were arrested a week ago at a Philadelphia Starbucks SBUX told ABC News on Thursday they hope what happened to them does not happen to anyone else.

Rashon Nelson, alongside Donte Robinson, said on "Good Morning America" he wants to "take this 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 as our ancestors were or anyone else."

"This is not just a black people thing, it's a people thing," continued Nelson. "That's exactly what we want to see out of this, true change."

Nelson described the events of last Thursday, which were caught on video, posted online, and went viral on the internet, stirring outrage and protests over whether this was a case of racial profiling. He said he asked to use the restroom immediately after walking into the Starbucks. But he said he was told it was for paying customers only.

Robinson said they were there for a "real estate meeting" and that they had been "working on this for months." He said he conveyed that to the Starbucks employees when they asked if Nelson and he wanted anything to drink. "We're fine. We're just waiting for a meeting, and we'll be out really quick type thing."

When the police arrived in response to a 911 from the store about a disturbance, Robinson said he thought: "It can't be for us."

Nelson said, "As soon as they [officers] approached us, they said we have to leave. There was no question of … was there a problem here between you and the manager? [Or] what happened?"

"We wasn't read any rights," said Robinson. "Just double lock handcuffs, on our backs, and escorted out, and up into the squad car."

Their attorney, Stewart Cohen — who appeared on ABC with Nelson and Robinson — said his clients were arrested for no reason. "The facts speak for themselves," he said. "There's not a single witness that says these young men were misbehaving in any way. And you can see and hear that on the video."

Neither the Philadelphia police nor Starbucks were immediately available to respond to CNBC's request for comments following the ABC interviews.

"These officers did absolutely nothing wrong," Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who is black, said Saturday.

Earlier this week, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson told "GMA" it was "completely inappropriate" for the store to have called the police.

"Starbucks was built as a company that creates a warm, welcoming environment for all customers. That didn't happen here in this case," Johnson said Monday .

Cohen on Thursday said he approached Starbucks on behalf of his clients about entering into mediation to resolve the matter. He said Starbucks agreed, but stressed the discussions are confidential.

As for Robinson, he said, "I want to make sure this situation doesn't happen again. So what I want is for a young man or young men to not be not traumatized by this, and instead, motivate and inspire."

Starbucks on Tuesday said it plans to close all of its company-owned locations in the U.S., about 8,000 of them, during the afternoon of May 29 to conduct a racial-bias education program.

"We will learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every customer," Howard Schultz , executive chairman, said in a statement. The longtime leader Schultz stepped aside as CEO a little over a year ago to focus efforts to turn the Starbucks high-end Reserve Roastery-branded coffee bars into destination restaurants.

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