Yesterday’s wild storming of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump insurgents wasn’t the only violence perpetrated by the president’s followers that day.
In downtown Los Angeles, where a coronavirus surge continues to rage, NBC reports that dozens of MAGA supporters also gathered on January 6 to protest and posture in the name of their president.
But rather than smashing windows, the mob at this rally marked the event with a vicious attack on a Black woman.
Berlinda Nibo, a 25-year-old downtown L.A. resident, told The Root that she was walking through her neighborhood on Wednesday with friends like she does every day when they came upon a mass of Trump-flag bearing people rallying and shouting “Stop the Steal.”
Nibo took out her phone to capture the spectacle for Instagram Live, and that’s when she said one of the many white men there fixated on her.
At that point, “I noticed that I was the only Black person there, so I was like maybe I should just move away,” Nibo said. “My friend was like ‘let’s go’ and I said we gotta get out of there.”
But it appeared the Trump supporters had already decided the young Black woman was a key target for their rage. Nibo said they started heckling her with questions about who she voted for in the Presidential election, though she was walking away. Soon, a white woman screamed directly in Nibo’s face, telling her to take off her mask (par for the course for the Trump cult supporters).
Nibo responded that they should put on their masks, and that’s when she says they started surrounding her while ironically chanting “All Lives Matter,” and then attacked her. Nibo had gotten separated from her friends by then and was now alone in the middle of the fracas.
“It’s just me and all of a sudden I’m just getting cornered by 30, 40 people,” she said. “That’s what started all of them to jump in and shoving me around. Then some lady comes out of nowhere and starts tugging on my hair, trying to pull my hair off of my head.”
After the mob ripped Nibo’s extensions off her head, she says they started pepper-spraying her directly in the eye—what she believes was an attempt to make her vulnerable to an even more severe attack. “They were trying to put me on the floor so they could just stomp on me and kick me.”
But Nibo kept fighting back until she says a man grabbed her in order to help her get away from the crowd. Even then, one of the attackers took the opportunity during which she was immobilized to again spray her in the eye.
“It was like—we got our hands on a Black person, we’re going to make an example of her,” Nibo said. “It’s just sad that girls are no longer being protected nowadays, apparently. It’s worse because I’m a Black girl.”
Even more disturbing, but not that surprising given the hands-off treatment meted out to Trump insurrectionists at the Capitol on Wednesday, police were reportedly in full view of the attack and did nothing, according to Nibo.
Pictures posted by photojournalist Raquel Natalicchio on Instagram corroborate the hellish scene described by Nibo, and Natalicchio confirmed to The Root that about 20 police officers were present but did not intervene in the mobbing—prompting her and two other bystanders to ultimately rescue Nibo.
“I’m definitely shaken to see men beat a woman in that way, especially since there’s no excuse for it,” Natalicchio said. “But also it was very disheartening to see so many people, like over 50 people watching this happen and nobody stepped in.”
Nibo says she is planning to make an official police report about the assault she suffered. The Root reached out to the LAPD for a comment on the mob attack and the claims that their cops watched while it happened. Their response was that they are “looking into the incident.”
NBC Los Angeles also reports that police arrested six people at the rally, which cops had initially described as a peaceful protest until fights began breaking out and people refused to disperse.
As for Nibo, she says she is still shaken but is grateful she wasn’t more badly hurt. Still, the incident has left her worried about her safety in this country as a Black woman.
“Should I not walk down the street anymore without getting worried about getting beaten up by Trump supporters because I am darker than I am?”
The disturbing debacle is an echo of the hateful scenes from Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, when Black people demonstrating against hate were captured in photographs and on video being beat bloody by MAGA supporters, neo-nazis, and other white supremacist groups on a day that was punctuated by the tragic murder of Heather Heyer. In the final waning days of Donald Trump’s presidency, it’s hard to imagine that this pandora’s box of racial animus and horror will actually be closed shut with just the swearing-in of President-elect Biden.
For Black people especially, our mandate is still: Keep safe and stay woke.