A Muslim student at Wichita State University says he and a Hispanic friend, who also is a student, were attacked over the weekend by a man who shouted racial epithets and “Trump, Trump, Trump” before riding away on his motorcycle.
Khondoker Usama, the student body vice president at Wichita State, who is Muslim, said he and a Hispanic friend, who so far has chosen to remain anonymous, were filling their vehicle at the gas pumps at a Kwik Shop near campus at 21st and Oliver early Saturday when a man in his 20s or 30s started calling a black customer at the convenience store a racial epithet.
“Then suddenly it turned onto us, calling us ‘brown trash, go home. Trump will win,’ ” Usama said.
Then the man approached the students and, according to Usama, said, “You want to live in this country, you better leave.”
But Usama said his friend told the man: “This is my country; who are you to tell me that?”
The exchange was heated, Usama said, and he tried to defuse the situation, but his friend got punched and taken to the ground. He said he tried to get between the attacker and his friend but then was pushed himself. He thought he saw the attacker reaching for his pocket and feared he had a weapon, he said, so he backed away and called 911.
“He kept kicking the student who was laying on the ground,” Usama said. “He was kicking him; it was a gut-wrenching scene. He saw that I was calling the police and got back on his motorcycle and circled around us and was saying ‘Trump, Trump, Trump, we will make America great again. You losers will be thrown out of the wall.’
“None of us knew that person,” Usama said. “I don’t know why anyone would do anything so hateful and so wrong to any individual.”
His friend suffered bruises to the face, Usama said, but he was not sure about any other injuries, and neither he nor his friend requested medical attention. A police report on the incident indicated the friend suffered a bruised lip.
Usama said the police asked Kwik Shop employees for video footage of the incident, but they refused because their manager wasn’t present. Wichita police Lt. Jeff Gilmore said police hope to obtain video from the store by late Monday morning.
Given the nature of the allegations, Gilmore said, “We’re getting right on it.”
Wichita police Lt. Randy Reynolds said the suspect is a white man about 30 years of age who was wearing a black jacket and black beanie. He was about 6-feet-1 and 200 pounds.
The only physical similarity he and his friend share, Usama said, is the color of their skin. So when police asked whether he thought it was a hate crime, he told them: “When you just start a conversation with someone calling out ‘brown trash,’ there is no other motivation I see other than a hate crime.”
At first Usama refused to talk to the media over the weekend, but he changed his mind because he said he thinks it’s important that people hear this is happening.
“There may be other people who are fearing the same thing,” Usama said. “So this is really important in the times we are in, the challenges we are facing as minorities in this country; we better get united and we better speak up.”
Violence has erupted around rallies for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, especially in the past week. During the March 5 caucuses in Wichita, racial epithets were reported, but no arrests were made and no violence reported. At a Trump speech Saturday in Kansas City, Mo., police used pepper spray to try to control the crowd of Trump protesters outside the venue where he was giving a speech.
A man in North Carolina has been charged with assault for allegedly punching a protester as he was being escorted out of a Trump rally. A reporter for Breitbart has filed charges against Trump’s campaign manager, saying the Trump aide yanked her arm. Some of Trump’s presidential opponents criticized Trump over the weekend, saying he is inciting the violence.
Trump has said the protesters are infringing on his free-speech rights and that he blames supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as being behind the violence.
Usama will hold a news conference at noon on Monday at the Rhatigan Student Center on the WSU campus with the Kansas chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations.
“We urge law enforcement authorities to treat this alleged assault as a hate crime and for local, state and federal elected officials and candidates to repudiate the apparent political and racial motive for the attack,” Moussa Elbayoum, chairman of the board of the Kansas CAIR chapter, said in a prepared statement. “Donald Trump should himself repudiate this alleged hate crime, apparently committed by one of his supporters.”
Usama is still reeling from the incident.
“I am traumatized,” he said. “I feel really humiliated.”
Contributing: Stan Finger of The Eagle