Bystander steps in to help strangers accosted for speaking Spanish
A woman is being hailed a hero after confronting another woman who was criticizing two friends for speaking Spanish to each other at a store in Colorado.
Fabiola Velasquez, 30, told CNN that she and her friend Isabel Nava Marin were at a City Market supermarket in Rifle on Monday afternoon. The two women were in an aisle chatting with each other in Spanish when another woman “aggressively” approached them.
According to Velasquez, the woman, identified by police as Linda Dwire, 64, told the two friends that if they lived in the United States, they “had to speak in English.”
That’s when 30-year-old Kamira Trent intervened.
Velasquez took video of part of the exchange between Dwire and Trent and shared it on Facebook. As of Thursday night, the video had been seen about a million times. Around 2,900 Facebook users have commented and overwhelmingly praised Trent for stepping in to defend the two friends.
“Don’t harass people,” Trent said in the video as Dwire got closer, pointing a finger at her. At one point, Dwire got close enough that she touched Trent, who pushed Dwire’s arm and started to back away, saying, “Do not — I’m calling the cops.”
Dwire then told Trent, “You know what, you come from a different generation.” Trent cuts Dwire off and replied, “No I do not, I have respect.”
The two women kept walking down the aisle. Dwire can be heard saying “you will lose this country,” while Trent said “this woman needs to be escorted out of here,” later adding, “you do not harass Hispanic women.”
Dwire was arrested and charged with two counts of bias-motivated harassment, according to the Rifle Police Department.
In the police affidavit, Sgt. Carlos Cornejo wrote that when he arrived at the scene and talked to Dwire, the woman stated “she found it offensive” that Velasquez and her friend were speaking Spanish.
Dwire also stated that she approached the two friends and asked if they lived in the United States and if they liked it, adding she also told them to speak English and be American.
According to the affidavit, Cornejo also stated that Dwire “went on to say that she was offended because when you speak another language you divide yourself. She stated that it gives her the idea that they want to bring their country here and want her to conform to their country.”
Cornejo added Dwire said she was exercising her right to freedom of speech.
In the affidavit, Cornejo said he saw the video Velasquez took. The document has a screen shot of the video that shows Dwire pointing her finger at Trent and Trent pushing Dwire away.
Dwire was transported and booked to Garfield County Jail. She was later released. CNN reached out to Dwire for comment by phone on Thursday and left a message, and did not get a call back.
CNN also reached out to Trent on Thursday by phone and via social media but she has not responded.
In a Facebook post published on Monday, Velasquez wrote, in Spanish, about her experience: “I always saw the videos on social media and they made me angry, and today when it happened to me I can say that I felt a lot of helplessness.”
Velasquez told CNN she would not like something similar to happen to others, but added that if it does happen “they have rights and they can call the police.”
“Many times [the] Hispanic community does not feel secure asking for help.”
CNN also reached out to City Market on Thursday by phone and left messages, which were not returned.