21-year-old Emilio Herrera, 21, and his two younger brothers, 18-year-old Romeo, and 17-year-old Pablo were riding Portland’s MAX train when they witnessed a belligerent man yelling racial slurs at a Black woman.
All three brothers stepped in to help the woman out, preventing what could have been a violent situation.
via Oregon Live:
“I see this fairly big man yelling,” Emilio Herrera told us over the phone Tuesday. “That man was just yelling at this woman, yelling the n-word, kind of being belligerent.”
Herrera says the woman he was yelling at was an African-American woman who was sitting with another woman and a toddler. “No one deserves to be called anything like that,” said Herrera.
The three brothers approached the man and began filming the interaction. “We told him to stop,” said Herrera. Then, the man turned on them.
“He asked us what the f we were going to do about,” said Herrera.
The brothers didn’t want to start a fight with the man, Herrera told us, but they also were wary of calling the police. “I watch the news,” said Herrera. “We’re three young brown kids so I didn’t know how that would turn out.”
Instead, the brothers asked the man to get off the train. “We tried to handle it the best we could,” Herrera said.
In the video, the man can be seen calling the brothers the n-word and attempting to swipe at the phone. Herrera said the man finally got off the train at the Beaverton Transit Center at around 7:46 p.m. He then got back on the train and yelled at the boys again, telling them to delete the video.
“He stood there like he was going to do something,” said Herrera.
Then, according to Herrera, he pushed them. Herrera says the boys wanted the situation to de-escalate so they did not push him back.
Finally, the man got off the train for the last time.
Nobody else on the train attempted to assist the women, Herrera said. “Everybody just sat there and watched us.”
“We are disturbed by the individual’s behavior,” Mary Fetsch, spokesperson for TriMet, said via email, “and in this type of situation it’s appropriate for riders to contact the operator and request police to respond or call 9-1-1 directly.”
Herrera said that after posting the video, one of the women who was being verbally attacked reached out to him and thanked him.
He said this isn’t the first time he’s experienced racism in Portland. “Sadly,” he told us, “it’s not uncommon.”
The woman at the center of the incident, Nitasha Sweaney, sent the following to Oregon Live about what happened:
I was coming from a birthday party in Hillsboro when a man got on the MAX and was asking everyone for 75 cents. My godmother and I both said “No” and we continued with our conversation. The man sat down a few seats in front of us. A couple max stops later the man stood up and walked in front of us and flipped us off, while just standing there.
Being a new mom I am very cautious with riding public transportation.
I asked him “please sit down. please just sit back down.” He did not listen and came about a foot away from us and was yelling racial slurs and cussing in our face. At this point the only thing I could do was hold my daughter tightly and cover her ears.
Three men came running from the other side of the MAX. They distracted the man from being in our face. The man redirected his aggression to the three men. The three men stayed close to us, sitting a few seats away. The man finally got off the MAX but about 45 seconds later got back on and continued to harass the three men for their phone, since they recorded the altercation.
This all happened on the front MAX, right behind were the driver is located. After the man got off the MAX for good. The TriMet driver got on the intercom and stated that the MAX would be waiting a few more minutes before departure.
I have never been in an altercation like this, especially not since having my child. I ride the MAX every day to work. I’ve never felt uncomfortable on public transportation but since this I have been extremely alert and uncomfortable. My main focus now is learning to drive and getting my drivers license. I would never want my child to have to go through that again.
Check out the video of what happened on the train below.