ASHEVILLE, N.C. — A video recorded in downtown Asheville that shows a woman yelling racial slurs at a family from Charlotte has gone viral.
Aisha Sabur told our news partners WLOS she and her family were going to a birthday dinner and were not near protests when a woman, later identified by Asheville Police as Rachel Ruit, started screaming racial slurs at them.
Another member of Sabur’s family started recording the interaction while they all stood behind the camera.
“She continued to say racial slurs to my face, over and over and over again,” Aisha Sabur said. “It was the most blatant display of racism that I have ever experienced. She wanted me to know that ‘If you touch me, I will call the police and you will be held accountable.’ And, that’s a big part of why I didn’t lose my cool."
Sabur told Channel 9 on Tuesday that it took a lot not to react to Ruit.
Eventually, protesters in the area noticed what was happening and tried to block Ruit from the family.
In the video, it appeared Ruit then started yelling racial slurs at the protesters. The family, as well as bystanders, said what happened was unprovoked.
“We were walking down the street and I hear a screeching voice in my ear behind me,” Sabur told Channel 9. “She was filled with hate, rage and racism and that’s it.”
She said she and her boyfriend, Justen Johnson were in Asheville for Justen’s mother’s birthday, heading to dinner as a group, when Ruit started hurling racial slurs their way.
“She saw the group that I was with and she started to target them and everyone else there as well, continuing to scream racial slurs,” Sabur said. "She said the "N" word an amount of times I’ve never heard in my life."
“That woman was filled with such extreme hate and that level of hate, and that level of privilege as well, to go up to a group and scream such a derogatory word to us,” said Johnson.
“Her goal was to provoke violence from me, so she weaponized the police department, weaponized the justice system against us, so I want to be very clear and intentional that I think she knew exactly what she was doing,” Sabur said.
As the video continues to go viral, Sabur told Channel 9 she wants her message to be clear.
“I think we have to recognize that racism in America is alive and well, and while this was an isolated instance for me, it’s not for people of color. It happens all the time,” she said. “It’s time for us to come together as a society and be actively anti-racist and make sure that people like this are exposed and they are held accountable for their actions.”
Our news partner WLOS spoke with attorney Joseph Bowman who watched the video. He said while there isn’t a hate speech law in North Carolina, ethnic intimidation could apply to this situation.
Ethnic intimidation is defined as a misdemeanor that happens when a person because of race, color, religion, nationality or country assaults or damages or defaces property of another person or threatens to do any of that.
“The issue with disturbing the peace is if it looks like you are trying to start a fight, and if it looks like you are trying to start a fight, then you are trying to start a fight, and that’s the crime,” Bowman said.
Bowman believes Ruit could face a maximum of 60 days in jail if charged and sentenced.
The family from Charlotte said they are glad they caught what happened on camera. They said it is an example of why protests for racial justice should continue across the country and around the world.
“All of us who were here, we were affirmed this is why we’re here,” protester Jacob Blair said.
Ruit has since received a criminal summons for disorderly conduct.
The incident happened where people were protesting near the Vance monument, a Confederate monument named after former Governor and Confederate soldier Zebulon B. Vance -- one of many monuments people are calling for to come down.
Vance High School in Charlotte is also named after him, and there is now a petition circulating to rename the school.
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