Mother, daughter attacked on street for speaking Spanish in public

Lawyers for the victims are calling for police to investigate Boston incident as a hate crime

A Spanish-speaking mother and her teenage daughter were recently attacked on a Boston street, allegedly by two white women after the pair were overheard speaking their native language, according to a legal advocacy group that called on police to label the incident a hate crime.

The assault, which happened near a train station in Maverick Square in East Boston on Feb. 15, was captured on surveillance video as the two walked home from dinner, reports said.

The mother, identified only as Ms. Vasquez, said the attack was unprovoked.

"We were attacked, punched, kicked, and bitten," Vasquez said in a press release from the legal group. "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."

Vasquez and her 15-year-old required medical attention, according to reports.

Lawyers for Civil Rights said what happened was a hate crime, although police have not yet declared it to be.

“They experienced a terrifying mix of racist verbal attacks, vicious physical violence, as you will hear from Ms. Vasquez, the two are inextricably intertwined,” Janelle Dempsey, an attorney for the family, said at a news conference Monday. “That’s why this incident must be labeled and treated as a hate crime.”

The mother claims Boston police did little to investigate the case or “formally interview the Vasquez family until legal counsel intervened” nearly a week later, according to the news release.

At Monday’s news conference, a tearful Vasquez said through an interpreter, “As they beat us, they yelled: ‘This is America, speak English.’ ” The victims also said they were told to “go back to your [expletive] country,” according to Newsweek.

Reports said Vasquez’s injuries are still visible.

So far, no suspects have been arrested.

It was a Saturday night. Video of the incident shows one of the suspects crossing an intersection on foot and then confronting the pair on a sidewalk. Words were exchanged and then punches thrown.  Several bystanders witnessed the episode and some appeared to try to  break up the melee before police arrived. The suspects had already fled when authorities finally appeared in the video, interviewing the victims and witnesses who remained on the scene. The Vasquez family said that while police took statements for a report, they were slow to take “meaningful action” to investigate until contacted by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

Boston Police Department Sgt. Detective John Boyle spoke with the Boston Globe and said the incident remains under investigation by the department's Civil Rights Unit, but he gave no indication that the attack would be investigated as a hate crime.

“The police should be doing their job, and they should be reaching out to victims on their own,” Dempsey said.

The news release goes on to call for the Boston Police Department to “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.”

East Boston is about 56% Hispanic, according to WBZ-TV CBS Boston.