Who Will Stand in Solidarity with These Women?

Lana (left) and Zahra Al (right), victims of a hate crime during Porchfest in the Tower District, support each other as they listen to a speaker in the Fresno City Council chamber on May 23. Photo by Peter Maiden
Lana (left) and Zahra Al (right), victims of a hate crime during Porchfest in the Tower District, support each other as they listen to a speaker in the Fresno City Council chamber on May 23. Photo by Peter Maiden

On May 23, Fresno City Council members heard from three traumatized women who were attacked by an Islamophobic man at Porchfest in the Tower District. (See also “Hate Speech and Crimes.”)

Speakers supporting the women were outraged that the District Attorney’s Office did not file hate crime charges against Francisco Samaniego, who was arrested shortly after the incident.

Zahra Al, one of the traumatized women, spoke at the City Council meeting saying that while distributing information at a table she “had to deal with this individual, Francisco Samaniego, for 20 minutes before he decided to become physically aggressive and start his assault on myself, my six-year-old son, my friend Lana and my other friend Mel.”

Supporters of the victims of a hate crime in the Tower District show signs in the Fresno City Council chamber. Photo by Peter Maiden
Supporters of the victims of a hate crime in the Tower District show signs in the Fresno City Council chamber. Photo by Peter Maiden

Al said that during the 20-minute verbal assault Samaniego used “white supremacist, racist rhetoric [and] racial slurs against Arabs, Latinos, Blacks and Muslims.” She was outraged that the DA did not file hate crime charges.

Layli Shirani, senior staff attorney on civil rights for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), spoke at the public hearing via Zoom. She said that she is representing the three women who were attacked and that it “defies common sense to understand why the DA made this hasty choice [not to charge Samaniego with a hate crime].

“In our view, before reviewing all of the evidence and before meeting with all of the individuals who were directly affected and offering reasoning that is inherently flawed.”

The goal of those at the City Council meeting was to encourage City Council members to get the DA to reconsider adding hate crime charges against Samaniego. Although the City Council does not “hold prosecutorial powers over the suspect,” as Council President Annalisa Perea said, it does have political power and could influence the DA’s office.

This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, visit cavshate.org.

Author

  • Mike Rhodes

    Mike Rhodes is the executive director of the Community Alliance, was the editor of this newspaper from 1998 to 2014 and the author of several books. Contact him at mikerhodes@fresnoalliance.com.

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