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Activists: Families escorted from pool for music in Spanish

July 19, 2021 GMT

HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Activists in North Carolina are calling for change after Mexican women and their families were reportedly escorted out of a pool for playing music in Spanish.

The News & Observer reports members of the families and Poder NC, a Latinx advocacy group, gathered outside of the state Capitol on Saturday to speak about the incident at the Flex Fitness and Recreation Center pool in Hendersonville. Veronica Ramirez, Bella Perez and others were at the pool July 12 when an employee tried to disconnect their speaker, they said.

“She’s had music in English, and she says nothing. But we had music in Spanish,” Perez told an officer.

The incident occurred after white women at the pool complained about the music, according to Bianca Figueroa, Ramirez’s niece. When staff tried to take the speaker without communicating, Ramirez, Perez and others were upset and sought an explanation, she said. Staff called law enforcement to remove them, and Figueroa said she and others left the pool after explaining the situation to the officer.

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Poder NC and the family are demanding that the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office release the incident report and 911 call audio and establish a policy that avoids children translating for law enforcement. When officers first arrived they spoke English, and children stepped in to translate, Poder NC spokesperson Natalia Diez said. An officer then spoke to the women in Spanish.

“Any time a police officer is called, it has a legal implication,” Diez said. “How can we expect a 17-year-old girl — oftentimes a 6-year-old, an 8-year-old — how can we expect them to fully and accurately interpret the situation on both sides?”

No one answered calls to Flex Fitness seeking comment and the Times-News reports that it received a flood of negative reviews on multiple platforms online.

The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that everyone was cooperative when deputies arrived and there was no “incident report” since the department doesn’t complete them for matters that don’t require further investigation. There were no 911 recordings and the department has several bilingual deputies and contracts with a language service provider when a Spanish-speaking deputy isn’t available, according to Maj. Frank Stout.