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BG racial attack elicits strong Community Response

 

By La Prensa Staff

 

BOWLING GREEN, April 2019: Two men are charged with felonious assault and other crimes for an unprovoked attack on two Latino high school students at a Waffle House in Bowling Green, Ohio. But the incident’s aftermath has a Latino group and others calling for a stronger response to hate crimes.

 

Beatriz Maya and other leaders at La Conexión have called on Bowling Green City Council to take a stronger stand and enact some recommendations made by the group at a recent meeting.


Beatriz Maya

 

La Conexión is a Latino-based social and cultural support organization.

 

Justin Hartford of Mount Cory, and Zarrick Ramirez of Findlay, both 18, told BG police they did nothing to provoke a series of racial slurs and a beat-down while customers at the restaurant. Witnesses, including employees, backed them up, resulting in the arrests of Jacob Dick, 22, North Baltimore, and Zachary Keller, 21, of Custar, for felonious assault and ethnic intimidation.

 

Witnesses reported the two suspects began to harass the teens as soon as they walked into the Waffle House on March 31. One even told the teens president Donald Trump would deal with immigrants like them. At one point, things got nasty enough that restaurant employees had to stand between the two pairs of men. The high school students got uncomfortable enough to ask for another table on the other side of the restaurant.

 

Things calmed down until Dick and Keller paid their bill. Witnesses told police the two suspects then went to the teens’ table and assaulted them. The two men then fled the restaurant after the attack. Police later identified the suspects by the credit card they used to pay their bill and a restaurant patron’s confirmation. Ramirez suffered a broken nose and other injuries. Hartford injured his shoulder and bruised his back.

Ramirez attends Findlay High School while Hartford goes to Liberty Benton High School.

“We weren’t saying anything to them. That’s the craziest thing. It was based on just the way we looked. That is so messed up. Who cares what anybody looks like,” Hartford told the BG Independent News. “It was making me uncomfortable. I’ve been discriminated against before, but not anything like this. You’d expect this from somewhere in the South. But we’re in Ohio.”

“I’ve never been hated on like that,” added Ramirez.

The community outrage over the incident was immediate. US Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) released a statement condemning the attack.

“I am sad and outraged. Racism has no place in our society and Connie and I are heartbroken that this happened in our great state of Ohio,” said. Sen. Brown. “We must stand with one voice and say together that we will not tolerate acts of racism, violence and hate against our neighbors.”

Bowling Green State University President Rodney Rogers also released a statement condemning the attack:

“Acts like this are not representative of the community in which we live. We must meet moments like these head on, holding fast to our values. We join with Not In Our Town, La Conexión, and other members of our community in standing against hate,” the statement read.

At a subsequent Bowling Green City Council meeting, La Conexión, Not In Our Town, and other community groups presented a list of requests for the city to limit racism and other forms of hate. About 80 people packed city council chambers, forcing some people to listen from the hallway.

Ms. Maya told city council members the attack “deeply affected and rightly outraged the BG community.” La Conexión organized a pair of meetings in the beatdown’s aftermath to organize a community response.

Ms. Maya outlined three recommendations for city leaders to consider:

·         Acknowledge and condemn the presence of systemic racism in the community;

·         Adopt ordinances ensuring businesses and organizations approach hate with “zero tolerance” policies; and

·         Support and revise more task force work in the city to better respond to hate incidents.

La Conexión’s executive director is hoping city officials can build on work first done in 2017 to establish Bowling Green as a welcoming city for immigrants. The nonprofit group also is encouraging more establishments to adopt “bystander training,” which provides people the tools to personally intervene in hate-based episodes they witness.

Bowling Green resident Susana Peña pointed to the city council’s past efforts—its human relations commission and Welcome BG Initiative among them—but stated the hard work is far from done on racism.

“We’re looking to City Council for leadership,” Ms. Peña said. “We need more resources committed toward these actions.”

Well-known Latino artist Emanuel Enriquez—a Bowling Green State University graduate and resident of Bowling Green—was outraged that such a blatant attack would occur.

One BG City Council member relayed that he had one of the suspects in the government class he taught at North Baltimore High School, his voice shaking with emotion as he spoke. “I feel the sting when that’s inadequate,” said city councilman Mark Hollenbaugh. “There are people within our community who have values who don’t represent us.”

City council members individually pledged to work on the issue and thanked the different organizations for their suggested solutions.

“We will take them all very seriously,” said city council member Bruce Jeffers, adding that any statement about the recent racist attack seems inadequate. “Our work continues.”

“I would like you all to feel encouraged,” said city council member Bill Herald, assuring the crowd that council was listening.

Council president Michael Aspacher said the issue of local racism is a “community problem that is going to require a community solution.”

On the Internet:  https://bgindependentmedia.org/two-men-arrested-for-racist-attack-in-bg-waffle-house-update/

 

 

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2019 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 04/30/19 12:07:36 -0700.

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