A mother and a daughter say they were attacked by two other women for speaking Spanish in Boston, a city with a rising Latino population and a history of racial and ethnic tensions.
As The New York Times reports, back on February 15, the mother, who asked to be identified only as “Vasquez,” and her 15-year-old daughter, whose name she declined to provide, were walking home from dinner in a Latino neighborhood in East Boston. The women were speaking to each other in Spanish when they were allegedly assaulted by two other women, identified as Jenny Leigh Ennamorati and Stephanie M. Armstrong, both 25.
Ennamorati and Armstrong both allegedly kicked, punched, and bit Vasquez and her daughter. They purportedly yelled at the two women during the alleged assault.
“This is America! Speak English!” they allegedly yelled.
Prosecutors would later say that Ennamorati and Armstrong both admitted to having been drinking before the alleged assault. Further, both women reportedly said that they believed Vasquez and her daughter were making fun of them, since they couldn’t understand what they were saying.
Last week, prosecutors filed federal hate-crime charges against Ennamorati and Armstrong. Specifically, they’re charged with two felony counts each of violation of constitutional rights with bodily injury, and two misdemeanor counts each of assault and battery.
Vasquez says that her daughter continues to have to wear a neck brace since the attack. She herself says that she continues to have nightmares about it.
“This was terrible — terrible. Nobody expects to be walking down the street and attacked,” she said.
Rachael Rollins, Suffolk County district attorney, suggested that Ennamorati’s and Armstrong’s actions came from a place of entitlement.
“The sense of entitlement and privilege these defendants must have felt to utter these hateful and racist words, and then to physically attack a mother and her child for laughing and speaking Spanish is outrageous and reprehensible,” Rollins said.
Meanwhile, the Times notes that Boston, which has had its share of racial and ethnic tensions over the decades, is now in the midst of a boom in the size of its immigrant population. Over the past several decades, its foreign-born population has increased 50 percent. And its Latino population has grown from one percent in the 1970s to 58 percent today.
Several Latino residents in Boston say that they, too, have been victimized by hate crimes, and that police have not been properly investigating their cases.
“This family’s experience was not an isolated event,” said civil rights attorney Janelle Dempsey.