A student on the Rock Island High School boys’ soccer team says a bus driver told him he couldn’t get on the bus because it was carrying a Mexican flag.
Gabriel Albarran and his teammates were about to board a Tri-State Travel bus to go to their game against Dunlap High School when he says the bus driver told him he couldn’t get on on board because of the Mexican flag he was carrying.
It actually happens on Thursday, Mexico’s Independence Day.
Albarran says the driver also told him to return to his country.
Local 4’s Matt Holderman spoke to the student on Friday to get his thoughts on what happened.
“We were just sitting there, and I had my flag on my shoulders, and then the bus driver came out and he said to me, ‘This flag is going to be a problem here. “”
Albarran says that as he was trying to board the Tri-State Travel bus, carrying his Mexican flag to go to a soccer game, the driver told him to get off the bus and go back to his country.
“And I was like, ‘Why?’ and he said, ‘This is America. You can’t have that flag here.
But Albarran was not going to withdraw his flag.
“And I said, ‘Okay, that’s fine. You can kick me off the bus. I do not withdraw my flag. I don’t care what you say.
And the Albarran team had their backs.
“Keep my flag up. It’s the same thing they told me; to keep my flag up. Just keep it… not in front of his face, but right there, so, just to show that I’m not going to back down right over a flag.
The whole team decided to get off the bus as well after what happened – a gesture that means a lot to Albarran.
“I am grateful to them. I’m grateful that people supported me yesterday and the coaches didn’t get on the same bus with them.
On Friday, 24 hours after the altercation, Tri-State Travel President Andrew Hillard said he and his company were conducting “an internal security investigation” and “treating him (the bus driver) accordingly.”
Albarran says he just wants to see everyone go through life and recognize people as more than just the color of their skin.
“Look more at the person instead of just their race, because race shouldn’t matter,” Albarran said.
Superintendent of Rock Island-Milan Schools, Dr. Reginald Lawrence also spoke about the incidentsaying, “Students shouldn’t have to put up with this kind of prejudice and racism” and “what happened was extremely disappointing and unacceptable.”