The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a black college student who claimed he was discriminated against by a Santa Fe Allsup’s convenience store employee.
The complaint, filed Tuesday morning on behalf of plaintiff Jordan McDowell, alleges an Allsup’s employee called Santa Fe police and asked officers to remove him from the store at 650 Cerrillos Road because of his race.
The lawsuit claims McDowell “suffered and continues to suffer severe emotional distress and psychological pain and suffering” and asks for actual and compensatory damages, in addition to legal fees and costs.
According to the lawsuit, McDowell walked around the store in the summer of 2018 and eventually bought some candy before continuing to look for additional items to purchase. At some point, the Allsup’s employee told McDowell he needed to leave the store and said she was going to call police.
McDowell took a cellphone video of the incident, which showed Allsup’s employee Manuela Esther Ramirez on the phone, saying, “I want him out of here right now.” Later, she continued: “Because he’s being arrogant. Because he’s black.”
The video went viral.
McDowell was visiting Santa Fe as part of a class trip as he studied at Xavier University in Louisiana.
“People have a right to enter stores and other public accommodations without fear that they will be discriminated against or endangered because of the color of their skin,” ACLU of New Mexico Legal Director Leon Howard said in a statement. “With this lawsuit we are putting all public accommodations in our state on notice that incidents of blatant discrimination will not go unanswered.”
The ACLU filed a complaint with the state Human Rights Bureau in 2018. The bureau, an investigative agency that shares the federal right to enforce civil rights protections, ruled in September there was probable cause McDowell was discriminated against on the basis of his race.
Allsup’s is listed as the lone defendant in the lawsuit. Attempts to reach a spokeswoman listed for the company were unsuccessful.