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Advocates Say An Alleged Hate Crime Against Immigrants In East Boston Is Part Of A Larger Trend

Ms. Vasquez’s eyes well up with tears as she describes to reporters the incident in which she and her 15-year-old daughter were violently assaulted on Feb. 15 by two white women near Maverick Station in East Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Ms. Vasquez’s eyes well up with tears as she describes to reporters the incident in which she and her 15-year-old daughter were violently assaulted on Feb. 15 by two white women near Maverick Station in East Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

A mother and daughter living in East Boston say they are the victims of a hate crime and they want the Boston Police Department to hold their assailants responsible.

Lawyers representing the two say the incident is part of a trend of violence against immigrants in Boston.

Ms. Vasquez, as she's identified in a press release, says she and her 15-year-old daughter were violently assaulted on Feb. 15 by two white women near Maverick Station in East Boston. The assailants allegedly yelled at the mother and daughter for speaking Spanish before kicking and punching them.

"As they beat us, they yelled, 'This is America. Speak English.' " Vasquez told reporters Monday. She says the attackers also told them to go back to their sh-- country.

Vasquez said neither of the officers that responded to the incident spoke Spanish, so her daughter and another bystander helped translate.

Janelle Dempsey is an attorney with Lawyers for Civil Rights representing the family. She says the Boston Police Department is not taking this seriously and should have begun investigating this as a hate crime at the time of the incident.

"We want an immediate and formal investigation into this hate crime and we do want charges brought against the assailants and we want the perpetrators to be held accountable," Dempsey said. "The police need to show the community that they take this seriously and that they value immigrants."

Boston Police Sgt. Detective John Boyle told WBUR this is a "very active" investigation for the department's civil rights unit. Boyle declined to say whether charges have been filed, but said detectives in East Boston started looking into the incident when it happened before passing it onto the civil rights unit. (Read the redacted police report.)

Dempsey, however, said BPD did not follow-up or formally interview the Vasquez family until legal counsel intervened.

According to a press release, Ms. Vasquez has not yet been made aware of whether charges have been brought. She said she and her daughter are still coping with the trauma of the altercation.

“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," she said. "My daughter is still wearing a neck brace and she’s having trouble sleeping. We are all very shaken."

Dempsey and Lawyers for Civil Rights say this violent incident is representative of a larger trend in East Boston and other communities throughout the city that are home to large numbers of foreign-born residents.

"It has been increasing over the last few years and the fact is that residents are scared to go to the police or they don't think that the police will do anything about it and that's exactly what we're seeing here," she said, "where the police have the information, it is so clear from the police report exactly what is happening and yet, the police did nothing."

Vasquez has lived in East Boston for five years and says this is the first time she has experienced this type of violence, but it's not the first time she's heard of such attacks.

"I was not expecting this, I was in shock and disbelief," she said. "I couldn't believe that this was happening."

Related:

Shannon Dooling Twitter Reporter
Shannon Dooling is an immigration reporter at WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station.

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