A student on the Rock Island High School boys soccer team says a bus driver told him he could not get on the bus because he 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 board because of the Mexican flag he was carrying.
This actually happening Thursday, on Mexican Independence Day.
Albarran says the driver also told him to go back to his country.
Local 4’s Matt Holderman spoke with the student 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 told me, ‘That flag is going to be a problem here.'”
Albarran says that, as he tried boarding 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 cannot have this flag here.'”
But Albarran wasn’t about to take his flag off.
“And I said, ‘Okay, that’s fine. You can kick me off the bus. I’m not taking off my flag. I don’t care what you say.'”
And Albarran’s team had his back.
“Keep my flag up. That’s the same thing they told me; to keep my flag up. Just keep it right … not in front of his face, but just right there, so, just to show that I’m not going to back down just over a flag.”
The entire team decided they would exit the bus too after what happened — a gesture that means a lot to Albarran.
“I’m grateful for them. I’m grateful that the people had my back yesterday, and the coaches didn’t go on the same bus with them.”
On Friday, 24 hours after the altercation, Tri-State Travel President Andrew Hillard said he and his company are doing “an internal safety investigation” and “handling 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 into the person instead of just their race because race should not matter,” said Albarran.
The Rock Island-Milan Schools Superintendent Dr. Reginald Lawrence also spoke out on the incident, saying, “Students should not have to experience this sort of bias and racism” and “what took place was extremely disappointing and unacceptable.”