A Black woman was attacked, pepper-sprayed, and beaten when a crowd of President Donald Trump’s supporters closed in on her in downtown Los Angeles. They ripped a wig she was wearing off her head and used a tool shaped like a metal flagpole to hit her shoulder, Berlinda Nibo told the Los Angeles Times. The attack happened the same day terrorists attempted a coup at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. “It seemed like these people were trying to kill me,” Nibo, 25, told the Los Angeles Times. “To use me to make some kind of statement or something.”
She told the newspaper she came across a “Stop the Steal” rally while she and a friend were on their way to breakfast. She noticed a crowd of what police estimated to be 200 protesters and stopped out of curiosity. She wondered why there would be a Trump rally when the election had ended, but realizing there were no other Black people there, she soon decided to leave instead, the Los Angeles Times reported. Nibo only changed her mind when she noticed her friend’s phone was lost. The two separated to find it, and it didn’t take long before the crowd began targeting Nibo. “Do you know who Joe Biden is?” one person reportedly asked her. She pretended not to. “Did you vote for Donald Trump?” another demonstrator reportedly asked. Nibo answered that question.
“I literally said, ‘Let’s move on,’ and then I moved on and moved away,” she told the Los Angeles Times. That’s when the racial slurs started. “I’m just thinking, like, wow, I am literally being targeted right now because I am the only Black girl here walking around, and to them I am easy prey because I’m a girl,” Nibo said.
Photojournalist Raquel Natalicchio started following Nibo when she noticed the woman was alone. “A mob of at least 20 Trump supporters circled her, beat her and maced her,” Natalicchio said in a tweet Wednesday. “It took two bystanders to pull her out. No arrests were made.”
The Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement released on social media that they had interviewed her and a “hate crime/battery report” was taken. “The individual seen in the images with his arms wrapped around her—per the victim’s statement—was determined to be a Good Samaritan that helped her get away from the hostile crowd, by carrying her to safety,” police said in the statement. “The LAPD is continuing to conduct a thorough investigation, and we encourage any witnesses or those with information on the suspect(s) to contact Central Area Detectives.”
It still remains to be seen just how much of a Good Samaritan Roy Ball is, but Nibo said he whispered in her ear after the attack: “It’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK. Calm down. I’m not going to hurt you.” Her friend eventually caught up with her and helped her escape the crowd. Ball was fired from his job with Toyota USA for unknown reasons. “The actions in these photos are inconsistent with Toyota’s guiding principle of Respect for People. We do not condone this conduct,” the business tweeted the day after the protest.
Nibo told Buzzfeed News someone pepper-sprayed her as the man identified as Ball held her. And although Los Angeles police described how the man handled Nibo as a “bear hug from behind,” Nibo said he held her so tightly he left “red marks” on her body. “It was not fun. It was no bear hug. It was traumatizing,” she told Buzzfeed. Photojournalist Kate McTiernan told the Los Angeles Times police at the protest wouldn’t even look at video Nibo had taken on her phone. “It felt like they were avoiding trying to do anything,” McTiernan said.
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