A Palestinian-American woman was detained at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium last weekend because she was waving a Palestinian flag.
Buthayna Hammad says 15 minutes into the game she was approached by the stadium’s head of security, Nathan Buchanan, who told her the flag was a violation of stadium rules.
Born in Houston and a fan of the Houston Dynamo soccer club, Hammad had no idea what he meant.
Eventually she was approached by more security officials and four Houston police officers.
Buchanan allegedly told her that Compass Stadium considers the Palestinian flag to be a an implied “racial slur.”
The match she was attending Sunday night with her Honduran boyfriend was between Israel and Honduras.
“I wore a Honduras jersey and was eager to cheer on this team, dressed to represent Honduras. To represent my own heritage as a Palestinian-American, I also brought my Palestinian flag,” Hammad told the Free Press Houston.
“I made sure my flag was allowed (based on the size, etc.) and I was all ready to go,” she said. “For the first 15 minutes of the match I stood up and cheered and stomped my feet with the rest of the crowd chanting “HON-DU-RAS” and waving my Palestinian flag, my colors vibrant and loud against a sea of blue and white…and apparently also racist.”
She said Buchanan would not explain to her how the flag representing her country is a slur.
“I asked him to show me evidence of his accusations and asked him how my flag, a part of my identity as a Palestinian-American, implies a racial slur,” she said. “He could not answer whether he did not know or could not articulate why he was ordered to remove my flag and me from my seat.”
Harbeer Sandhu of the Free Press Houston asked the stadium about its policy and suggested that “you could say that all flags are ‘racist.’”
Houston Dynamo spokespersn Gina Rotolo said Hammad’s flag and her behavior could have incited violence.
“The decision to not allow the Palestinian flag to be displayed during the game was based on the sole intention of maintaining the safety of those in attendance,” Rotolo said. “The flag bearer was instigating the crowd, and we felt it was important to diffuse a potentially volatile situation as emotions began to escalate.”
When Sandhu asked how Hammad was “instigating the crowd,” Rotolo replied:
“This patron instigated the crowd by waving the Palestinian flag in front of Israeli supporters. Given that her actions caused emotions to escalate, the appropriate course of action, in our eyes, was to ask her to please refrain from waving the flag.”