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Woman sues HPD officers and Dynamo Stadium for First Amendment violations after being detained and told her national flag is a “racial slur”

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Community organizations condemn discrimination woman faced at soccer match. 

tcrp_hou300Texas Civil Rights Project-Houston (TCRP) filed a lawsuit today on behalf of a woman who suffered discrimination and civil rights violations from Houston police officers and security guards at BBVA Compass Stadium.

As World Cup fans know, displaying international flags during international soccer matches is a common tradition. A Houston woman’s recent experience at BBVA Compass Stadium, however, was anything but common.

While attending a Honduras v. Israel soccer match last month with her Honduran friend and family, Buthayna Hammad, a Palestinian American, displayed her Palestinian flag. While others in the stadium also displayed flags from different countries, stadium security and Houston police singled out Ms. Hammad for her choice of flag and removed her from her seat. Inside the stadium, the security personnel told her that she could not display her flag because it constituted a “racial slur” and an alleged security concern.

“This is textbook national origin discrimination and a blatant violation of the First Amendment,” said Amin Alehashem, attorney for  TCRP-Houston.  “Police officers and security personnel must understand that probable cause is needed to detain an individual and discriminating against free speech under the guise of an invented security threat is a violation of civil rights,” Alehashem said.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Ms. Hammad said. “Like others in the crowd, I simply displayed my flag. Next thing I know, security and HPD officers have pulled me aside, told me my flag is a ‘racial slur,’ and wouldn’t let me go back to my seat until I agreed not to display it. I don’t know why they singled me out, but it’s not fair” she said.

For more information, please call Amin Alehashem at 832-767-3650.

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