Americas Community

Judge’s ruling dismissing hate crime enhancements on Roque family decried

By Jun Nucum
LOS ANGELES – Nearly a hundred supporters of the Roque family condemned the ruling of the judge in the Roque family McDonald drive-thru in Hollywood California assault case dropping the hate crime enhancements on assault charges.

Community supporters attended the preliminary hearing of attacker Nicholas Weber to hear the court’s decision on the case and witnessed that Judge Neetu Badhan-Smith found probable cause for two felony assaults committed by Weber, including one with great bodily injury after reviewing evidence presented by the prosecution and the defense on April 4-6 but the hate crime enhancement on both assault charges were dropped.

The court found that Weber’s assault against the family may be indiscriminate but was not motivated by racial bias because he also engaged a non-Asian bystander who came to the family’s aid.

All the while, the judge acknowledged that Weber used “vulgar and offensive” racist slurs against the family and verbally stated his intent to kill the family, she nevertheless  emphasized a time gap between the racial slurs and the assault.

“And the tragedy is that…those few minutes were enough for them to believe that that wasn’t a hate crime. But the Roque family has to live for the rest of their lives knowing that they were assaulted because they were Asians,” said Dominico Vegas, Secretary-General of Anakbayan USA, who spoke to an outraged crowd of community members after the hearing. “That’s unfair. And that’s why we’re angry right now, because what we witnessed up there is not justice.”

Community members pointed out the legislation that is supposed to protect victims of hate crimes is weak and failing to deliver justice to victims. Community leaders added that it’s apparent that the law is not equipped to provide solutions to the fundamental problems of racism and discrimination against migrants and communities of color.

“And the tragedy is that those few minutes were enough for them to believe that that wasn’t a hate crime. But the Roque family has to live for the rest of their lives knowing that they were assaulted because they were Asian. That’s unfair! And that’s why we’re angry right now, because what we witnessed up there is not justice,” rails Vegas. “We saw injustice unfold before our very eyes. We saw how broken the legal system is to say that it’s not a hate crime because he wasn’t saying those things when he was hurting the family.”

For her part, Abi Felix of Bayan SoCal vowed to “continue to be agitated at the slowness and inefficiency of the courts in addressing hate crimes and truly failing working class people like the Roque family.”

“To this day, the Roques continue to rely on the community for material support while both the U.S. and Philippine states continue to neglect their needs. To this day, it is through the community that the Roques have been able to gain support, services and answers for justice,” Felix added.

Filipino Migrant Center’s Katie Joaquin dwelt on the importance of community support for the Roque family through the Justice for Roques campaign as it is an example of what is possible when you are organized.

“Together with the Roques we are shining light on an issue that’s widely ignored. With every rally, every event, every media hit we’re letting another person know that they are not alone. Their experience matters. And there is a powerful community to fight alongside them. That is a Victory we can all celebrate,” Joaquin stressed.

Hundreds of community members and organizations mobilized to 14 court hearings for nearly a year to get justice for the Roques. While the campaign was successful in growing the mass movement of people on the issue of anti-Asian hate and violence against migrants, supporters felt failed by an outdated, racist, and out-of-touch justice system.
Community organizations shared their determination to continue growing the mass movement to defend migrant workers and called on attendees to stop Asian hate by joining organizations and by taking up the Justice for the Roques campaign. Campaign supporters plan to mobilize in support of the Roque family to yet another court hearing for the attacker Nicholas Weber’s arraignment last May 1st at 8:30 a.m.