‘What trash are you speaking?’: Man arrested after beating Syrian refugee for talking in Arabic
Adrian Richard Vergara sat next to the unidentified teenage Syrian on the bus in San Diego, California, who was speaking to his friend on FaceTime calling app, before launching the attack.
The man ripped out his earbud and asked “what trash are you speaking?,” according to prosecutors
The 17-year-old responded with “Arabic”, triggering rage in the attacker who shouted “F*** Arabs” while beating him.
Vergara pleaded guilty to the felony hate-crime assault after surveillance video confirmed his identity. He faces five years in prison, KGTV reported.
“It wasn’t just what happened that made me mad and made me sad. It was the silence of others,” the 17-year-old said in a statement to KSWB.
“Why didn’t they help me? Why they did nothing while I was being beaten?” he asked.
The Syrian refugee said he wanted to break boundaries and dispel misconceptions about Arabs and Muslims, encouraging others to report attacks to the police.
“To all the people who are attacking our community: Don’t judge us without knowing us,” he wrote in a statement last month.
Read more: YouTuber Adam Saleh thrown off plane 'for speaking Arabic'
He had arrived to the United States in 2016 after leaving Syria’s Homs in 2012, his mother confirmed. The family spent a year in Algeria and three years in Jordan before arriving in California.
But shortly after their arrival, his brother was also attacked and his mother was verbally abused for wearing the hijab.
“We came to this country under the belief that we would have civil rights and liberties and safety,” he wrote in a statement to KSWB. “When the attack happened to my brother we realised this wasn’t true for everyone.”
Many experts who track violent extremists have identified white nationalism as a growing threat.
In January, for example, the New York-based Anti-Defamation League said domestic extremists killed at least 50 people in the US in 2018, up from 37 in 2017. "White supremacists were responsible for the great majority of the killings, which is typically the case," the report said.
Anti-Muslim hate crimes have surged since US President Donald Trump began his presidential bid in 2015, reports showed, linking his tweets on Islam-related topics with attacks against Muslims in the country.
"We can and will expect others to follow his lead, with sometimes deadly consequences," said Farhana Khera, Executive Director of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy and educational organisation working on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.
"Hate crimes motivated by anti-Muslim bias are at all-time high, and the president’s words and actions further inflame this violence. Mosques have been burned and bombed, children are bullied, homes are vandalised, and people are attacked. Our country deserves better," Khera added.
"The silver lining to this very dark cloud is that Americans of all backgrounds are standing up for dignity and equality and are waking up to just how much our way of life is under attack by this president. Our country was founded on religious freedom and equality under the law. All Americans must continue to fight to ensure these values are upheld."