A Latina and her 15-year-old daughter were “brutally assaulted” by two white women in East Boston near the subway station on Feb. 15 reportedly for speaking Spanish, according to a local NBC affiliate. The mother, who only wants to be identified as Ms. Vasquez to protect her daughter, called on the police to investigate the assault and NBC reports the hate crime unit is currently investigating. The attack was recorded by a nearby business and it shows the women approaching Vasquez and punching her, and then Vasquez defending herself before a fight breaks out and the police arrive. No arrests have been made but it’s an active investigation according to Boston police Sergeant Detective John Boyle, the Boston Globe reports.
“I’m having nightmares,” she said during a press conference via an interpreter. “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.”
According to advocacy group Lawyers for Civil Rights, the women were attacked near the Maverick Square MBTA station where Vasquez said they were “attacked, punched, kicked and bitten.” She went on to say that while they were beaten the white women said, “This is America, speak English” and, “Go back to your [expletive] country.” The lawyers’ group said they both require medical attention after the attack.
LCR is providing legal support for the Vasquezes, and they said the police “did not follow-up or formally interview the Vasquez family until legal counsel intervened,” the Boston Globe reports. According to the police report, the white women — whose names were redacted — “admitted that they had been drinking and acting belligerent.” According to their statements, they verbally engaged in arguments and they allege Vasquez or her daughter was the first to punch them and they acted in self-defense. The police report states that one of the white women had several scratches on her face and a small amount of blood on her fingernail while one of the Vasquez women had a large scratch on her cheek and a laceration on her right thumb from being bitten. According to two witness police reports, the white women were the ones who initiated the attack.
“Victims and witnesses are afraid to speak up,” Vasquez said, who has lived in the area for five years now. “That ends now.” According to local advocacy groups, immigrants and people of color may be afraid to report hate crimes. Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente, an advocacy group, said: “People of color and immigrants cannot feel safe when police officers fail to act.”
This incident is reportedly not isolated, as hate crimes in East Boston escalate where the neighborhood is predominately Latino/a, 52 percent versus 37 percent white in 2010. The Boston Globe reports the civil rights unit investigated 14 incidents in East Boston in 2019, up from five in 2018. Those figures match the overall increase in Boston where the number of alleged civil rights violations rose from 152 in 2018 to 191 last year.
“We are not second-class citizens,” Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente, an advocacy group said in a statement. “We deserve protection and respect. In a neighborhood such as East Boston, which has seen a spike in hate incidents, immediate and meaningful investigations of hate crimes are critical to deter further threats and violence.”
Vasquez also said that though this was her first racist experience in the area, she’s aware of “bigots and racists” that have attacked others in the neighborhood. “My family and I are afraid,” Vasquez said. But “we refuse to live in fear. We refuse to stay silent, as we were attacked based on our race, our language, and our identity,” she said.