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'She started hitting me' | Victim of viral, racist confrontation in Plano parking lot speaks

The woman was charged with assault and terroristic threats. The incident is still being investigated by the Plano Police Department's Crime Against Persons Unit.

PLANO, Texas — Rani Banerjee said she and three of her friends had just finished dinner at Sixty Vines in Plano when a woman confronted them in the parking lot, as seen in a now-viral video.

"Suddenly, we heard this woman yelling at us and started coming toward us. We were shocked by the racial slurs that she used and combative attitude," said Banerjee. 

Banerjee started recording the incident with her phone. The woman, who was identified by Plano police as Esmeralda Upton, shouted racial slurs and began hitting Banerjee. 

"Go back to India, we don't want you here," Upton could be heard saying on the video. 

"What was so very scary is she came very close and not only verbally assaulted us but started physically assaulting us. She started hitting me," said Banerjee. 

Upton, who identified herself as Mexican-American, told the group in the video that she "hated Indians." 

Warning: The video has some graphic and racist language. 

The group feared for their safety and called 911. Plano officers responded within minutes. 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the incident and called on police to charge the woman. 

“The level of vitriol and alleged physical assault against four Indian-American women in Plano is truly appalling,” said Faizan Syed, executive director of CAIR-DFW. “This type of hate has no place in North Texas, and we call on law enforcement to investigate this incident as a hate crime.”  

“As a Mexican-American, I’m appalled that someone would dare use my people’s name to spread hate,” said Nahela Morales, a Mexican-American and Board Member of CAIR-DFW. “As people of color, we need to stand together in solidarity to build bridges of love and understanding, not to bring each other down. To the women in the video, I want to say you don’t speak for our community or me; shame on you. I encourage you to learn about the shared culture between South Asians and Mexicans.”  

Upton was charged with assault bodily injury and terroristic threats. She has a $10,000 bond.

The incident is still being investigated by the Plano Police Department's Crime Against Persons Unit as a hate crime and more charges may be forthcoming, Plano Police said. 

The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum released the following statement on Saturday, Aug. 27: 

"The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum is deeply saddened by the hateful attack on a group of women of South Asian descent in Plano, Texas. Caught on video, the assault involved hateful rhetoric, physical assault, and threatened gun violence. This was a shocking display of the venomous power of racism and a sign of the deep divisions in our society. 

The hate speech and physical assault directed toward the women reflects the deeply rooted prejudice and discrimination against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities that has surged in recent years. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident, earlier this month a Dallas County Grand Jury indicted the man accused in the shooting of three women of Korean descent at a Dallas hair salon in May with hate crimes.

We encourage learning about the rich history of AAPIs in America as well as the long-held intolerance and hostility directed against AAPI communities in our country. We urge people to act to challenge and disrupt this scourge of hatred. Our beloved Holocaust Survivor, Max Glauben, often said that hatred is like yeast that grows and consumes the hater. He implored us all to stand up against prejudice to keep it from destroying ourselves and our community. Let us honor his memory and legacy by doing all in our power to combat prejudice, hatred, and indifference.

We recently explored the historical and current context of this long-held bias in our Crucial Conversations series on challenging AAPI hatred, which is available on our DHHRM YouTube Channel. To help us all better understand AAPI identities, history, and the impact of discrimination against AAPI communities today, we created a tool kit that is available on our website.

The mission of the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum is to teach the history of the Holocaust and advance human rights to combat prejudice, hatred, and indifference. To learn more, visit www.dhhrm.org."

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