In an unprovoked attack caught on video, a woman, her 15-year-old daughter and a friend were assaulted by two people for speaking Spanish while walking around Boston.
The attack happened on Jan. 15 in the area of East Boston when Mrs. Vasquez, a friend and her daughter had been walking home from the train station after leaving a birthday dinner.
Vasquez has asked for her first name and any identifying information to be omitted in fear for her and her daughter’s safety.
The group had been speaking in Spanish as they left the train station when they were approached by two strangers. Vasquez says this woman and a friend, who both identified as white, came charging at them from across the street, yelling at them saying, “This is America; speak English. We don’t speak Spanish here.”
Surveillance footage from the scene clearly shows the moment the woman approaches Vazquez and the rest of her party and begins assaulting them, throwing punches and kicking them.
Police were called to the scene after receiving a call for an assault and battery. After interviewing both parties and witnesses on the street, officers let the white couple go without charging them. The alleged attackers admitted they had been drinking and acting belligerent.
Vasquez contacted immigrant rights group Centro Presente and Lawyers for Civil Rights, where she is being represented by lawyer Janelle Dempsey.
“Unprovoked, [they] started attacking my clients and continued to do so,” said Dempsey. “My client [and] her daughter, her daughter is 15 years old -- they were kicked, they were punched with a closed fist, [their] hair was pulled, the mother was bitten on her thumb. It is so clear from the police report that this is a hate crime and the police were slow to act."
WFXT-TV reached out to Boston Police for a comment. Authorities said this is an active investigation and they could not provide any additional information.
“I was attacked in 2017 by two white people, too, and I see this increase in hate,” said Patricia Montes, the director at Centro Presente.
Montes says gentrification and hate stirred up by anti-immigrant rhetoric from President Donald Trump are to blame for the uptick in violence against immigrants. She is calling on the BPD and elected officials to step up and help out the community.
“This is a sanctuary city, and here we are receiving these kinds of attacks just because we are speaking Spanish on the train,” said Montes. “We are afraid to walk; our community is afraid.”
“This situation is very concerning: even to ask for police help in Spanish, you have to wait even though this is a neighborhood where many people primarily speak Spanish," said Noemy Rodriguez, an active community member, volunteer and organizer in East Boston. “There are no appropriate resources for us to know that we will be safe and for us to safeguard our lives.”
Lawyers for Civil Rights say that if police don’t make any arrests in this case, they will pursue other avenues.
In a press release, Centro Presente says, in part:
“The Vasquez family demands that BPD dedicate all available resources to investigate this urgent matter as a hate crime and to bring all relevant charges -- to the fullest extent of the law -- against the perpetrators. BPD must also conduct a comprehensive assessment of its procedures for identifying and responding to hate crimes, especially in instances where victims and witnesses are not represented by legal counsel. Increasing the number of police officers who are fluent in Spanish and other languages relevant to the East Boston community would also help support victims and witnesses.”
“In the current climate, the streets are dangerous. Far too many people are living in fear. Our well-being and safety are at risk. We need more support from law enforcement officials,” said Luz Zambrano, co-director of the Center to Support Immigrant Organizing, and general coordinator of the Center for Cooperative Development and Solidarity in East Boston. “Many immigrant residents feel the hostile atmosphere. That is why so many people and organizations are working together to help preserve the diversity and protect the fabric of our neighborhood,” Zambrano said.