East Boston Mother, Daughter Say They Were Beaten For Speaking Spanish

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — The group Lawyers for Civil Rights held a press conference Monday calling on Boston Police to investigate an attack on a mother and daughter that they claim was racially motivated as a hate crime.

In that attack, which the group claims was unprovoked, a mother and her 15-year-old daughter were assaulted near the Maverick Square MBTA Blue Line station in East Boston. They claim they were attacked because they were speaking Spanish and not English.

The victims, a Mrs. Vasquez and her daughter, both required medical attention, according to the civil rights group. In a release, Mrs. Vasquez spoke of the lasting effects of the attack.

"We were attacked, punched, kicked, and bitten," the release read. "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."

At the press conference in East Boston Monday, The Boston Globe reports, Mrs. Vasquez said two white women struck her and her daughter as they walked home from dinner on February 15. According to the victims, the women shouted "this is America," "speak English," and to "go back" to their country.

Lawyers for Civil Rights said Boston Police arrived to take a report, but the group claims the department didn't interview the victims until after they got involved on their behalf.

"However, BPD did not follow-up or formally interview the Vasquez family until legal counsel intervened," the group wrote in a press release.

The group released the video of the attack below. In it, a woman can be seen yelling at two people while crossing a street, then throwing a punch at one of them. A fight ensues between multiple people, until police show up.

Boston Police told WBZ NewsRadio that no arrests have yet been made, but that their Civil Rights Unit is actively investigating the case.

In a redacted police report, officers wrote that the two white women said they believed Mrs. Vasquez and her daughter were making fun of them due to the fact that they couldn't understand Spanish. They admitted to officers that they had been drinking and acting belligerent.

Witnesses also told police the two women attacked the Vasquezes unprovoked, loudly shouting at them and then physically assaulting them. One witness claimed that, while trying to break them up, he was punched in the face three times.

The Vasquez family, along with community organization Centro Presente and Lawyers for Civil Rights, want the BPD to "dedicate all available resources to investigate this urgent matter as a hate crime and bring all relevant charges—to the fullest extent of the law—against the perpetrators."

They're also calling on the department to reassess their procedures for hate crime investigations, and to increase the number of Spanish-speaking officers in the East Boston community.

"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," said East Boston community organizer Noemy Rodriguez in a statement. "There are no appropriate resources for us to know that we will be safe and for us to safeguard our lives."

Attorney Janelle Dempsey with Lawyers for Civil Rights said attacks like the one on the Vasquezes fit a pattern.

"This family’s experience was not an isolated event," Dempsey said in a release. "Acts of racism and xenophobia are alarmingly common in East Boston. 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."

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