DENVER (CBS4) – Following accusations of racism and discrimination of Muslims in their security screening at Pepsi Center, Argus Event Staffing has released video of the incident which they say proves no wrong doing.
Concerns were raised after Gazella Bensreiti accused a security guard at Pepsi Center of violating her religious freedom to enter the sports venue without removing her hijab, a traditional Muslim headwear.
Dave Brower, President and CEO of Argus, wrote a statement to CBS4 saying the company stands by its employee and her actions.
Brower said his employee, a 71-year-old African American woman, didn’t recognize Gazella Bensreiti’s headwear as a traditional hijab. As a result, the employee asked Bensreiti to remove the hijab as part of protocol for screening.
Bensreiti, from Westminster, told CBS4 she intentionally wears non-traditional hijabs in an effort to “blend in” and “not be called out” as she was at Pepsi Center.
After the accusations surfaced, Brower claimed Bensreiti was spreading “significant misinformation.” In an effort to clear his employee and company’s name, Brower released video of the interaction.
The video showed Bensreiti entering the will call security check point twice on Nov. 5. Both times the security employee asks her to remove her hijab.
Brower noted his employee let Bensreiti in the Pepsi Center after one minute, as the employee sought approval from a supervisor.
Brower’s statement is provided below:
“Argus is aware of a guest interaction with an Argus employee which took place on November 5th at the Pepsi Center. Argus would like to clarify the facts pertaining to the interaction. Our employee is a 71-year-old African American woman who has worked for Argus for 14 years and until this incident never once had been accused of discrimination, profiling or harassment. The patron repeatedly pointed to our employee and another Argus colleague while calling them racists. Argus stands behind our employee. Our employee was performing her job duties consistent with Pepsi Center and league security screening protocols. She did not recognize the headwear worn by the patron as a Hijab. Once notified by the patron of her religious headwear, our employee immediately sought guidance from her supervisor who allowed the patron to enter without removal of her Hijab. Our security video verifies that this interaction took a total of one minute and 11 seconds. There has been significant misinformation communicated about this event. To be clear, at no point was our employee motivated by religious or racial bias. She too has been traumatized by the interaction and has a 14 year employment history with Argus working multiple venues without a single patron complaint. It goes without saying, that Argus is committed to treating all guests equally regardless of race, religion, gender, national origin, or sexual orientation. “
In a phone call with CBS4, Bensreiti accused Argus and Pepsi Center of releasing an edited video which did not fully show her entire experience at the security check point.
“I challenge Argus and Pepsi Center to release the full video,” Bensreiti said. “I urge them to train (the accused security guard), along with all the employees, on religious inclusiveness to make sure she doesn’t do this again to anyone who enters the arena.”
In a statement to CBS4, Bensreiti’s attorney Gadier Abbas wrote:
“The fact that the employee who did this is a veteran security screener makes the incident even more concerning, rather than less. The NBA and Nuggets have a decision to make to either follow the law and implement policies that respect the rights and dignity of their fans that wear religious attire or to continue telling Muslims that they are not welcome. The idea that it’s okay to humiliate someone and treat them like a second class citizen as long as you do it quickly is shameful and deeply offensive to all Americans that value religious freedom.”
Bensreiti was at the Pepsi Center to watch her daughter sing the national anthem before a Denver Nuggets game.