The advocacy group Lawyers for Civil Rights called on the Boston Police Department during a Monday press conference to investigate a physical attack on a mother and daughter in East Boston earlier this month as a possible hate crime.
At the news conference held at the offices of the community organization Centro Presente, the mother identified only by her last name, Ms. Vasquez, was seated at a table with her attorney, Janelle Dempsey of Lawyers for Civil Rights, and Centro Presente Executive Director Patricia Montes.
Vasquez, who spoke to reporters through an interpreter in Spanish, said she and her 15-year-old daughter were attacked without provocation by two white women for speaking Spanish near the Maverick Square Transit station on the evening of Feb. 15.
"As they beat us, they yelled, 'This is America! Speak English,'" Vasquez said through tears.
She said that they were punched, kicked and bitten during the incident, which was captured via video surveillance from a local business.
Dempsey added that her clients "experienced a terrifying mix of racial verbal attacks [and] vicious physical violence,” and said she believes that the incident should be labeled and treated as a hate crime.
Montes added that she herself experienced violent prejudice in the same East Boston neighborhood.
"I was attacked, two years ago, in 2017 by two white people in the neighborhood," Montes said. "I have been living in this neighborhood for more than 15 years."
Dempsey said the case is part of a troubling pattern. "We have seen a spike in hate crimes in this neighborhood," she said.
In a statement, Lawyers for Civil Rights alleged that "BPD did not follow-up or formally interview the Vasquez family until legal counsel intervened."
Boston Police Spokesman Sgt. Det. John Boyle said police in District 7 are actively investigating the incident.
He also said the case had been transferred over to the Police Civil Rights unit and is under investigation.
Vasquez said that she and her daughter are scared, and that she feels afraid to take the train and her daughter is unable to sleep at night.
A police incident report provided to reporters shows that all parties denied the need for medical attention. The report noted that before the attack, the two assailants heard the mother and daughter laughing and speaking Spanish, and believed they were being made fun of.
According to the report, the assailants stated they had been drinking and acting belligerent.
Montes said they've heard little from Boston police.
“That’s why we’re so disappointed that BPD hasn’t done more to expedite a resolution of this matter," Dempsey said. "Specifically, by holding the perpetrators accountable.”