A woman says she and her 15-year-old daughter were physically assaulted for speaking Spanish on a street in Boston earlier this month by two white women who reportedly told them, “This is America” and ordered them to leave the country.
At a press conference on Monday, the mother, who only wanted to be identified by her last name, Vasquez, said the two women savagely punched and bit her and her daughter on Feb. 15 in Maverick Square, East Boston.
“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,” the woman said in a statement released by her attorneys with Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston.
Surveillance video capturing the incident shows one of the two alleged assailants crossing a street to approach Vasquez, according to her attorneys. The approaching woman appears to yell and wave an arm before shoving Vasquez, who hits her back. A fight involving several people ensues.
Vasquez, speaking at Monday’s press conference, said the women hurled racist orders at her and her daughter during the attack.
“Speak English,” Vasquez said one of the two unidentified women shouted at her. “This is America ... go back to your [expletive] country,” Vasquez said they told her, according to The Boston Globe.
Boston Police Sgt. Detective John Boyle, reached by HuffPost on Wednesday, said the department’s civil rights unit is investigating the incident and no arrests have been made. Because it remains an open investigation, he declined further comment.
“If and when an arrest happens, we’ll announce it,” he said.
According to a police report obtained by The Boston Globe, officers arrived at the scene just before 9 p.m. and spoke with Vasquez, her daughter, the two other women, as well as two witnesses.
The two alleged assailants admitted that they had been drinking and “acting belligerent,” police reported. They denied starting the fight, however, accusing Vasquez of first punching one of them during a “verbal argument.” One of the women told police that she defended herself by fighting back.
Everyone interviewed at the scene declined medical treatment, police said, though Vasquez said she and her daughter later went to a neighborhood health center and that her daughter is wearing a neck brace from her injuries.
Lawyers for Civil Rights attorney Janelle Dempsey said what happened to Vasquez and her daughter was not an isolated event.
“Acts of racism and xenophobia are alarmingly common in East Boston,” she said in a statement. “Most of the time, victims and witnesses are reluctant to speak out of fear and trauma. But the Vasquez family wants the police to hold the assailants accountable.”
East Boston, long a neighborhood of immigrants, has had an increasingly large Hispanic population since the early 1980s, with figures from the U.S. Census Bureau showing the population go from 96% (non-Hispanic) white and 3% Hispanic in 1980 to 50% (non-Hispanic) white and 39% Hispanic in 2000, the highest percentage of Hispanic residents in all of Boston’s neighborhoods, according to the city.