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North Texans come together to support South Asian community after racist incident

Plano rally
Caroline Love
/
KERA News
People gathered in Plano's Haggard Park Saturday to support four South Asian women who were the targets of a racist rant a week ago.

North Texans gathered in downtown Plano on Saturday to support the local South Asian community in the aftermath of a racist incident that was captured on video and went viral.

Esmerelda Upton confronted a group of South Asian women, hitting them and yelling racist slurs outside of the Plano restaurant Sixty Vines earlier this week. The group South Asian Americans for Voter Empowerment hosted a rally at Haggard Park in Plano on Saturday to show solidarity with the women who were hit and verbally assaulted in the video.

Mamta Jain came to the rally from Dallas with her husband. Her parents live in Plano and speak with Indian accents like the women in the video. She said she worries her parents could also be attacked.

“They go for walks with their community, with people in their neighborhood and stuff,” she said. “I don’t want them to be spoken to like that or accosted.”

Plano Police Chief Eric Drain said at the rally that he’s spoken with the FBI and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice about the confrontation.

Police arrested Upton on Thursday. She’s charged with misdemeanor assault and making terroristic threats. Law enforcement officials are investigating the incident as a hate crime and may add more charges later.

“We’re going to file all the charges that we can, including federal charges,” Drain said.

Sanjiv Sinha, who came from Allen to attend the rally, said hate crimes are becoming more common, even in affluent suburbs like Plano. That’s why Sinha attended the rally – he said the presence of hate can’t be ignored when people raise their voices together.

Sinha immigrated to Texas from England after moving there from Northern India. He thinks the political climate plays a role in hate towards immigrants.

“When things are uncertain, you know, when the inequality increases as much as it has, when the economy is not doing well, it is very easy to blame the other,” Sinha said. “And that's what we see happening.”

During the confrontation, Upton told the women to “go back to their country.” In her Facebook post where she shared the video of the incident, Rani Banerjee said she had “never felt more humiliated or threatened.”

In the video, Esmerelda Upton said that she is Mexican American. Cassandra Garcia-Hernandez, who is also Mexican American, attended the rally from Dallas with a sign that said, “this Mexican rejects hate.”

“We're not ever going to fully get rid of it,” she said. “But we do have to do our duty in speaking up and standing up.”

Got a tip? Email Caroline Love at clove@kera.org.

Caroline Love is a Report For America corps member for KERA News.

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Caroline Love covers Collin County for KERA and is a member of the Report for America corps. Previously, Caroline covered daily news at Houston Public Media. She has a master's degree from Northwestern University with an emphasis on investigative social justice journalism. During grad school, she reported three feature stories for KERA. She also has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Texas Christian University and interned with KERA's Think in 2019.