BOSTON (AP/CBS) — Civil rights groups are asking police to pursue hate crime charges against two people accused of attacking a woman and her daughter who were speaking Spanish in a strongly Latino neighborhood in Boston.
Lawyers for Civil Rights and other Boston-based groups said Monday that the 46-year-old woman and her 15-year-old daughter were “brutally assaulted” by two white women near a subway station in East Boston on Feb. 15.
The mother, who spoke to reporters Monday but declined to give her full name to protect her daughter, said the two had been walking home from dinner when the white women, unprovoked, attacked them while shouting at them that “this is America” and told them to “speak English” and “go back to your (expletive) country.”
She said they were punched, kicked and bitten and that her daughter, who didn’t attend the press conference, is still wearing a neck brace from her injuries. The woman said she and her daughter have also been having trouble sleeping and are afraid to take the subway or speak Spanish in public.
“We refuse to live in fear,” the woman, who her lawyers identified only as Ms. Vasquez, said in Spanish through an interpreter. “We refuse to stay silent, as we were attacked based on our race, our language, and our identity.”
A department spokesman confirmed no arrests have been made but the incident remains under investigation by the department’s Civil Rights Unit.
Lawyers for Civil Rights also provided a video of the evening attack, which the group says was unprovoked, as well as a redacted police report.
“They experienced a terrifying mix of racist verbal attacks, vicious physical violence,” said Janelle Dempsey of Lawyers for Civil Rights. “That’s why this incident must be labeled and treated as a hate crime.”
The video shows a woman crossing the street in Maverick Square and shouting at another woman before throwing punches. The other woman punches back, and other people jump into the fray before Boston police arrive.
The two women accused in the assault told officers they approached Vasquez and her daughter because they believed the two were making fun of them, according to the police report, which the department also provided.
Civil rights groups said “acts of racism and xenophobia” are increasingly common in East Boston, a heavily Latino neighborhood that has struggled with MS-13 gang violence in recent years but is also seeing a demographic change amid a building boom that includes new high end housing developments.
“Many immigrant residents feel the hostile atmosphere,” said Luz Zambrano, of the Center for Cooperative Development and Solidarity, an East Boston group concerned about the neighborhood’s gentrification. “Our well-being and safety are at risk. We need more support from law enforcement officials.”
The groups say police also need to improve their process for identifying and responding to hate crimes.
“The police should be doing their job and should be reaching out to victims on their own,” Janelle Dempsey said.
They say the department didn’t follow up with or formally interview the Vasquez family until local organizations and the Boston prosecutor’s office became involved.
“Immediate and meaningful investigations of hate crimes are critical to deter further threats and violence,” said Patricia Montes, head of Centro Presente, a Latino advocacy group based in East Boston. “We are not second-class citizens. We deserve protection and respect.”
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)