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Residents Share Experiences of Hate Incidents

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.”

Felipe Perez, Noemi Perez, Egleth Nunnci, and Gabriela Reyes at the Center for Healthy Neighborhoods at Richman Park.

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.

2 replies »

  1. Gabriela, I grew up in Fullerton. There have always been payasos malos in the world. People can say whatever they want. The woman that yelled at you, and has done so before, has emotional problems. You can’t help her. You need to ignore her and go about your business. Also, importantly, you need to learn some self-defense techniques in case you are ever in danger. Bullies have existed forever. There are ways to protect yourself and gain more self-confidence for those situations.

    Everybody in Fullerton and Orange County knows that the Spanish language was there long before English. Ella es celosa que no puede hablar tu idioma. Yo soy puro gabacho y tenia’ que luchar con ganas para apprender hablar tu idioma. No le haga caso. Ella es bein burro con problemas emocianales.

    Egleth, The most popular food in Fullerton and Orange County and California is Mexican food. The hate you speak of comes only from a few people who live miserable lives. Those people will not change. They are miserable with their own problems. They feel power when they yell foolishness at you. I am sorry you have had to hear them. I believe you can learn to ignore them and learn to not let them bother you as much. Your safety is most important. You are correct about the children. They remember what they see but they can also learn how to handle a rough situation from watching how the adults do so.

    Felipe and Noemi, I am sorry you have had to hear similar things from ignorant people. If someone has been harassing you for a two year period and you know where she lives, a police report needs to be made. That should not happen, especially in Fullerton. Her family and neighbors need to be alerted. She needs to be exposed and dealt with properly.

    I see a commenter named Hilda brought up the issue of mental health. That is also an important consideration. Fullerton has a growing population of mentally ill and drug addicted persons. They can create problems at times. Be safe and good luck to you all.

  2. If a person’s verbal confrontation puts the receiving person in a state of fear because he or she has ability to immediately follow through on his or her threats of harm then this meets criteria for assault which is a crime. Threat may be words or physical gestures of a person towards another. The key word is threat. If no verbal or physical threats then assault has not been committed by a person to another person. Hate crimes must show prejudice drove a person to strike another person or damage a person’s property. Hate incidents are unpleasant and if frequently inflicted on a person then this may be harassment denying a person the right to enjoy his or her property. Hate incidents are unkind words. Due to my race and sex, I have had unkind words slung at me in public places and my best defense is to ignore them and or walk away from these usually mentally ill persons. My concern is often “hate incidents” come from person who are mentally ill, may be living on the streets. Making a person’s comments a crime only allows society to dig a deeper hole for person’s who need psychiatric help not punishment.