Activists call for legislative action after Mexican women forced out of NC pool
Activists from across the state gathered in Raleigh Saturday to demand legislative change after Mexican women and their families were reportedly escorted out of a pool for playing Spanish music.
Members of the families joined Poder NC, a Latinx advocacy group, outside of the North Carolina State Capitol Building to speak about the incident.
They say Veronica Ramirez, Bella Perez and others were at the Flex Fitness and Recreation Center pool in Hendersonville on Monday when an employee tried to disconnect their speaker.
“She’s had music in English, and she says nothing. But we had music in Spanish,” Perez told an officer in a recording of the incident that has since garnered more than 8.5 million views on TikTok. “She came with a bad attitude and disconnected our speaker and tried to take it with her.”
In the video, Perez speaks in Spanish. Bianca Figueroa, Ramirez’s niece and the person who uploaded the video, provided translations on TikTok.
The incident occurred after white women at the pool complained about the Spanish music, Figueroa said in the video. When staff tried to take the speaker without communicating, Ramirez, Perez and others were upset and sought an explanation, she said.
The pool staff then called the police to remove them, and officers arrived on scene, according to Figueroa.
“It hurts me to see the inequality and racism,” Perez said in Spanish in the video.
She and the others left the pool after explaining the situation to the officer, Figueroa said.
The News & Observer tried multiple times Saturday to reach Flex Fitness, but no one answered the phone.
The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the incident, stating that no one was available Saturday who could speak to what occurred.
Hendersonville is in the western part of the state, about 25 miles south of Asheville and just over 100 miles west of Charlotte.
‘We’ve been silenced for too long.’
At the press conference on Saturday, Ramirez said she had come to Raleigh to speak for “the ladies that were there with me that day, just trying to have a good day, just trying to de-stress.”
“But police took them out,” she said in Spanish. “Nobody knows what that feeling is. The rage, because we couldn’t do anything.”
A Poder NC volunteer organizer provided English translations at the Saturday event.
Addressing a gathering 30 to 40 people, Figueroa said she spoke to a “worldwide” audience.
“This cannot continue happening,” she said. “The women behind me said ‘No more.’ They said ‘We will speak up, and we will speak up in our native language.’”
“We’ve been silenced for too long,” Figueroa added.
Poder NC and the family are demanding that the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office publicize the incident report, release the 911 call audio and establish a policy that avoids putting children in a situation where they must interpret for law enforcement.
Natalia Diez, a spokeswoman for Poder NC, said when law enforcement officers initially arrived on scene they spoke English, and the kids stepped in to translate. An officer then spoke to the women in Spanish.
Diez said there needs to be legal protections to prevent children from having to act as translators.
“Any time a police officer is called, it has a legal implication,” she said. “How can we expect a 17-year-old girl — often times a 6-year-old, an 8-year-old — how can we expect them to fully and accurately interpret the situation on both sides?”
Diez added that the situation can cause lasting emotional trauma for the children, when their translations are used as the basis for police reports and legal proceedings.
“Those children are turned into tools of oppression for their own families,” she said. “They wouldn’t allow it for any other children, so why is it the case with immigrant children, or non-English speaking children.”