A New York couple from Long Island is facing hate crime charges after verbally and physically attacking an interracial family on public transport. The entire incident was captured on video in which the couple identified as Justin Likerman and Kristin Digesaro harassed the victim, Liz Edelkind, her husband, and their son by shouting anti-immigrant slurs and chucking beer bottles at them.
“Look straight! Don't f***ing look at me! I'm going to get arrested tonight!’” Likerman shouted. He continued: “I know it's not worth it, but these f***ing foreigners ain't taking over my f***ing country!”
Edelkind and her family were on their way home from a New York Knicks game on Jan. 10 when the incident took place. The group was looking for seats together on the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) train and asked some passengers to move to accommodate them. That’s when Lickerman and Digesaro seemed to have an issue.
“They threw beer at us. My pastor and her husband, and my husband, got in the way to protect me,” Edelkind said.
“You have no rights here,” Digesaro yelled as her boyfriend began his horrible rant.
Edelkind, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, told NBC New York she believes she was targeted because of her accent and skin color.
“The couple started to verbally attack me, calling me curse words, ‘immigrant,’ that I don't pay taxes, that I have no rights in this country,” she told NBC New York.
“How dare they assume, because I look or sound different, that I am not a U.S. citizen.”
The footage was shared by Osman Canales, founder of Long Island Immigrant Student Advocates. Edelkind told him that the incident “ruined” her 10-year-old son’s first basketball experience.
She added that her family was “very concerned and traumatized by this aggression.”
According to officials, Likerman and Digesaro both surrendered to transit police on Jan. 16. They face charges of aggravated harassment as a hate crime and child endangerment. The charges are in collaboration with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and the Hate Crimes Unit.
Additionally, after their place of employment, Empire Toyota of Huntington, heard of the incident, they were fired.
“The two employees were suspended when we first heard about this incident, and, as our investigation just concluded, they have been terminated,” the company wrote in a statement shared to social media.
”The heart and soul of our labor force is extremely diverse and we value our employees beyond description. Further, our company’s deep support—financial and in-kind—of Long Island’s diverse communities is a matter of public record. We can say without hesitation that whatever occurred on that LIRR train is in no way reflective of our company, its ownership, its management team, nor its employees.”
Edelkind filed charges and hopes the incident will serve as an example to others.
“When I heard there were arrested, I felt validated as a human, as a woman, as a U.S. citizen. Justice prevails,” she said. “I want to show people, you have a voice, use it. If you're not using your voice to stand against those oppressing you, then you are standing with them.”
The incident follows multiple hate crimes reported against immigrants across the country, especially in New York. According to data compiled by the FBI hate crimes against all people of color have seen the highest increase this year.