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Bureau backs black student’s complaint against Allsup’s

SANTA FE – The New Mexico Human Rights Bureau has determined that there is probable cause that an Allsup’s store clerk discriminated against a customer in August if 2018 because he was black.

According to police reports at the time, Jordan McDowell, a pre-med student at Xavier University in New Orleans who was staying at a nearby hotel while visiting Santa Fe on a class trip, stopped at the Allsup’s at 650 Cerrillos Road to pick up some snacks.

After purchasing some Sour Patch Kids candy, he continued to browse through the store for a length of time and was told by the clerk that he looked “suspicious and sneaky.” The clerk called 911 and while on the phone McDowell began recording video of what was taking place on his cellphone, capturing the clerk telling the dispatcher, “And I want him out of the store right now. Because he’s arrogant, because he’s black.”

The video soon went viral and media outlets such as the Huffington Post, The Hill and Newsweek picked up on the story and included embedded video taken by McDowell in their online stories.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a Human Rights bureau complaint on McDowell’s behalf, citing other statements the clerk made to police, including that she keeps an eye on “all the Natives that walk in here, the drunks, or whatever.”

“The Human Rights Bureau’s finding of probable cause of racial discrimination is a positive step towards achieving justice for Mr. McDowell,” ACLU of New Mexico Legal Director Leon Howard said in a news release. “We cannot allow these incidents of blatant discrimination to go unanswered in our state. As we’ve seen from countless similar incidents across the country, calling the police on someone simply for being black in a convenience store is not only wrong, it’s potentially deadly.”

Allsup’s did not respond to requests for comment from the Journal at the time of the incident. A phone call to its headquarters in Clovis and an email requesting comment were not returned Wednesday.

In a phone interview, Howard said that the ACLU is in the process of deciding whether to proceed through the Human Rights Bureau process or waive a hearing and file a complaint in District Court.

The discrimination complaint filed at the Human Rights Bureau says that Allsup’s hadn’t offered an apology to McDowell, nor offered any type of concession. “The lack of response to this incident allow the sentiment to exist that Allsup’s condones the racist behavior exhibited by its employee,” the complaint states.

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