Allegations Of Racial Profiling At Marco Rubio Event In New Hampshire

CREDIT: Courtesy of Ugonma Ubani-Ebere

Taisha Henry (left) and Ugonma Ubani-Ebere (right)

There were hundreds of people packed into a Marco Rubio event on Sunday in Bedford, New Hampshire. Three of them were black.

They immediately attracted the attention of Rubio’s campaign staff.

Taisha Henry and Ugonma Ubani-Ebere, graduate students in journalism at NYU, attended the event with their professor Yvonne Latty. The three women, who are African American, had been in New Hampshire since Friday as part of group of students and faculty reporting on the primary for a class project. They were hoping to film the event.

As soon as Henry and Uban-Ebere started setting up their cameras, however, a staffer told them they could not film because they did not have press credentials. The two women put their cameras away. Moments later, they were approached again by Rubio’s staff and told not to shoot video, even though they had already put their equipment away.

But they continued to attract the attention of Rubio’s staff.

“[T]hen they were stared at and then they were approached again and it created this really tense atmosphere,” Latty, their professor, told ThinkProgress. Meanwhile, “another student in my class who is a white male had his camera on a tripod on a riser without a press pass.”

The incident left the two students shaken and, eventually, in tears. “It was a really horrible experience. Really horrible,” Latty said. “To be singled out that way while you are standing next to your white classmates. Repeatedly. They weren’t even doing anything.”

Latty has not heard from the Rubio campaign since the incident but believes that “no matter what happens now the damage has already been done.”

Earlier in the weekend, Latty and her students attended town hall events with Jeb Bush and John Kasich. She said both candidates were respectful and helped accommodate the students so they could be part of the process. “The other two Republican candidates were really nice to us,” she said. “We felt welcomed.”

After another professor, who is white, explained to a Rubio staff member that he believed the two students were being profiled, the women were readmitted with press credentials.

“It wasn’t a good feeling. It was like, gosh, here goes those African Americans crying again so let’s give them what they want. That’s what it felt like to us,” Uban-Ebere told ThinkProgress in a phone interview.

Latty is encouraging her students to stay strong. “I just texted them now. I told them that I’m really proud of them and that, you know, we can’t give up. It’s even more important that they become journalists because there is a problem here.”

But Uban-Ebere says the incident has changed her thinking about her career. “I feel like no matter what profession you have, unfortunately race is going to come into play. Before I didn’t have that thought. I thought once they see me among other journalists, I have the camera, I have everything… that’s it. But, no.”

Last August, Rubio said he was “deeply” concerned about racial profiling of African-Americans, particularly by law enforcement. The Rubio campaign did not return a request to comment on this story.