ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It was an unpleasant experience for Smith’s shoppers in Albuquerque Wednesday morning, particularly for a woman wearing a hijab, when another customer accosted her.
Barney Lopez was in the store at Coal and Yale when it happened around 9:30 a.m. He remembers walking in and passing the woman with the head scarf as she was checking out.
“I went down the aisle to go get sodas and then all of a sudden I hear somebody starting to yell at her,” he recalls, “And they’re saying things like ‘Get out of our country, you don’t belong here, you’re a terrorist!’”
At that point, Lopez says, practically everyone in the store stopped what they were doing and ran to the defense of the woman in hijab.
Lopez snapped a picture, albeit a bit shaky, of the person screaming at the woman in the hijab. The lady is wearing a hat and sunglasses. A Smith’s employee appears to stand in the way to keep her back.
“There was even another woman that like went over to the woman in the hijab and put her arm around her and gave her hug and held her while the Smith’s employees came,” he says.
Employees shuffled the shouting lady out of the store, but Lopez says the screaming woman waited in the parking lot for the woman in the hijab to come out.
“So all the Smith’s employees gathered around this woman and escorted her to her car and helped her load her groceries,” he recalled.
Lopez says while the incident was initially shocking and upsetting, he ultimately left the store feeling uplifted.
“At the end, I felt like really hopeful and proud of the community that everybody banded together,” he said.
KRQE News 13 called Smith’s Thursday morning and a manager confirmed what happened. The manager called the woman in the hijab ‘strong’ in the face of her verbal attacker.
The Smith’s manager also said the woman in the hijab came back to the store later in the day to thank the employees for their support and help.
Police were called and reportedly got to the store after the yelling woman had left.