Fullerton resident Gabriela Alejandra Reyes stood before Fullerton City Council on June 1 and told of the experience of someone walking up to her car and telling her to “go back to Mexico” and berating her for speaking Spanish.
“I felt threatened, I felt very afraid, I didn’t understand why she was harassing me,” Reyes said. “I called the police but the police were not able to do anything because there’s no laws for racists that attack us for not doing anything. My question to you is: Do they have to kill us for you to do something for us?”
Egleth Nunnci, a neighborhood leader based out of the Center for Healthy Neighborhoods in Richman Park, said, “We know people have freedom of speech, but what happens when that speech hurts somebody else, becomes harassment, becomes hate? Because hate is very powerful, and it can hurt not just the persons who are here, but their children are traumatized to see how they’re being treated…What is happening with our city? I don’t recognize this. I’ve always been so proud to be a Fullertonian, to have my daughter here and feel safe. And I am not feeling safe anymore.”
In an interview with The Observer, Reyes said that during the incident the woman appeared to want to fight her.
“My husband explained that he speaks English but not me. But the woman said ‘We are in America’ and I have to speak English, not Spanish. She told me that she can teach me English because she trains dogs,” Reyes said. “I was very scared and concerned because the woman was very aggressive and didn’t want to just talk. She wanted to fight. She asked me if I have a green card to be here legally in the United States.”
Reyes expressed frustration that the police could not do anything because, while what happened qualifies as a “hate incident,” a crime had not been committed.
Nunnci said that she and the Reyes family are working with the police department, and they are trying to get a mediation with Orange County Human Relations, a group which tracks hate crimes and hate incidents in Orange County, provides services for victims, and conducts anti-hate programs.
Fullerton residents Noemi and Felipe Perez have also been the victims of repeated hate incidents and harassment for the past two years.
Noemi said the harassment began when she was watering her plants in the front of her house.
“This lady stopped and began yelling at me,” Noemi said in an interview with The Observer. “She was saying things like, ‘You can’t live here because you’re Mexican’ and racial slurs.”
Another time, Noemi was walking on the sidewalk to her house, and the lady followed, cursing at her.
“I got very scared and ran to the Center for Healthy Neighborhoods at Richman Park,” she said. “I called the police from the center.”
The police came, but ultimately said there isn’t much they can do since no crime was committed.
Noemi said that her harasser lives in her neighborhood.
“Always when she is driving in her car, she stops and starts yelling at me all the time when she sees me outside,” she said. “I haven’t done anything. She has been harassing me for two years. I am very upset and frustrated. I used to go for walks around the neighborhood, now I don’t because I am very scared.”
The harassment is not limited to Noemi, but to the whole family.
Felipe Perez says he has been yelled at while mowing his lawn, things like “Go back to Mexico!” and other racial slurs.
“I spoke with the police and they told me it is her right of free speech,” Felipe said. “I understand that when people are very upset, they can say what they want, but when somebody looks in your face and does it all the time, that is different. It’s harassment.”
Nunnci said she has spoken with the Police Chief, who has been helping them set up mediation with OC Human Relations.
When asked for comment on these incidents, Fullerton Police Department’s public information officer Cpl. Billy Phu wrote to The Observer:
“The Police Department will investigate hate crimes. We have also contacted Orange County Human Relations, a non-profit group with experts in providing guidance and support to address prejudices and resolve conflicts in a community. We look forward to collaborating with OC Human Relations and connecting them with our community partners to foster respect and mutual understanding throughout Fullerton.
We encourage any community member who is concerned for their safety or the safety of another to contact Fullerton Police when safe to do so. For emergencies, dial 911, and for non-emergencies dial (714) 738-6700.”
To report a hate crime, call OC Human Relations confidential line at (714) 480-6580 or visit www.ochumanrelations.org.
Categories: Local News