Women yelled 'This is America, speak English!' before attacking mother and daughter: prosecutor
Two white women are facing felony hate-crime charges after allegedly assaulting a mother and daughter duo speaking Spanish in Boston, The New York Times reported. Officials filed the charges Friday in connection with an incident on Feb.15, in which the perpetrators, identified as Jenny Leigh Ennamorati and Stephanie M. Armstrong, attacked a mother and her 15-year-old daughter while they were walking home in a predominately Latino neighborhood. The women heard the duo laughing and speaking Spanish and assumed they were making fun of them, the police report read. According to prosecutors, the victims were punched, kicked, and bitten.
"As they beat us, they yelled 'This is America, speak English!'" the mother, identified as Ms. Vasquez, told reporters at a press conference. "We were attacked, punched, kicked, and bitten. I'm having nightmares. I'm afraid to take the train to work, and my family is afraid to speak Spanish in public. My daughter is still wearing a neck brace and she's having trouble sleeping. We are all very shaken," Vasquez said in a statement, according to CNN.
In total, Ennamorati and Armstrong were each charged with two counts of violating constitutional rights with bodily injury and two counts of assault and battery charges, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office said. In addition, Ennamorati was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon for using a shod foot, CNN reported.
”There is no place for hatred or bigotry in Suffolk County. The sense of entitlement and privilege these defendants must have felt to utter these hateful and racist words, and then to physically attack a mother and her child for laughing and speaking Spanish is outrageous and reprehensible," Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said in a statement. Rollins added that she takes hate crime accusations very seriously and will keep an eye on the process.
Surveillance footage shared by Lawyers for Civil Rights from a nearby business shows a woman pointing and yelling before punching another woman, The Times reported. The video also shows bystanders intervening before the police arrived.
“This family’s experience was not an isolated event,” Janelle Dempsey said, an attorney from Lawyers for Civil Rights, the nonprofit representing Velasquez. “Acts of racism and xenophobia are alarmingly common in East Boston.” According to city data, more than 50% of East Boston is Latino and foreign-born.
The incident has sparked widespread outrage in Boston, a city that identifies itself as a “sanctuary city.” According to Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, another attorney from Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston, following the charges his office heard from other Latinos in the area who also experienced racial violence. While Vasquez is traumatized by the assault, she told The Times that she hopes the charges will encourage other immigrants to report crimes even if they are undocumented.
Ennamorati and Armstrong are scheduled to appear in East Boston District Court on March 9.
If you are placed in physical danger because of your ethnicity, religion, race, or identity, call the police (dial 911 in the U.S.), or click here to contact your local FBI office. It is the FBI’s job to investigate hate-motivated crimes and threats of violence. You can also report a hate crime to the FBI online using this form.