Mother and 15-Year-Old Daughter Endure Hate Crime in Boston
Victims Demand Hate Crime Investigation Against White Assailants
In an unprovoked attack captured on video, a Latinx mother and her 15-year-old daughter were brutally assaulted by two white assailants because they were speaking Spanish, rather than English, near the Maverick Square public transit station in East Boston on the evening of Saturday, February 15, 2020. The mother, Ms. Vasquez, will call for justice at a press conference in East Boston. The press conference will be hosted by Centro Presente, the community organization that referred the hate crime survivors to Lawyers for Civil Rights, which is providing free legal support to the family.
To date, the Vasquez family has not been notified of any arrests. They still don’t know whether the matter is being investigated as a hate crime. The day of the incident, the Boston Police Department (BPD) arrived at the scene and prepared a report of the attack. The mother and daughter required medical attention. However, BPD did not follow-up or formally interview the Vasquez family until legal counsel intervened. Even then, the BPD process has been daunting.
“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,” said Ms. Vasquez whose physical injuries are still visible.
“This family’s experience was not an isolated event; acts of racism and xenophobia are alarmingly common in East Boston,” said Janelle Dempsey, an attorney with Lawyers for Civil Rights, which regularly receives reports from community groups and residents who have experienced hate crimes. “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,” added Attorney Dempsey.
“We are providing vital support to the Vasquez family and to many others in East Boston. People of color and immigrants cannot feel safe when police officers fail to act. We are not second-class citizens. 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,” said Patricia Montes, the Executive Director of Centro Presente.
Centro Presente and other community groups are rallying against hate crimes in East Boston:
“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. There are no appropriate resources for us to know that we will be safe and for us to safeguard our lives,” said Noemy Rodriguez, active community member, volunteer and organizer in East Boston.
“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,” added Ms. Zambrano.
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.
Lawyers for Civil Rights, Centro Presente, and the Vasquez family stand ready to assist law enforcement to stop this wave of hate. We have also turned over to law enforcement a video of this violent hate crime.