A video showing an American woman harassing two grocery store patrons for speaking in Spanish has been going viral online, garnering over 1.7 million views on Facebook so far.
The Washington Post has since identified the woman who attacked the Spanish speakers at the grocery store in Rifle, Colorado as Linda Dwire. In the viral video, Dwire can be seen in a shouting match with fellow grocery store customer Kamira Trent who steps in to defend the hapless customers who drew Dwire’s ire for speaking in Spanish.
According to the Post, Dwire overheard two women speaking in Spanish to one another and approached them. One of the women, who has lived in the US for the past eight years, was at the market with her three children.
Interrupting the pair, Dwire allegedly asked the woman whether they lived in the US and whether they liked living in the states. When the women responded in the affirmative to both questions, Dwire demanded that the women learn English.
According to another news publication, Dwire grew aggressive and “kept putting her hand in her face.” Trent, who was shopping nearby, says she heard Dwire say: “You’re in America. You’re in my country. You can’t speak Spanish here. You need to speak English if you’re going to be in America.”
Trent then stepped in to try to de-escalate the conflict. Trent’s reminder that the US is a free country and that Dwire could not tell the other women how to speak, however, only served to rile Dwire further. Trent said:
“She just got angrier and angrier. I was trying to get her away from the two women, but she wasn’t going to leave them alone. What she said and the way she said it was wrong.”
Yo nunca pensé que esto me fuera a pasar a mi. Estábamos una amiga y yo platicando en la tienda en español y de repente llega una señora a insultarnos que si vivíamos en este país no teníamos que hablar español que tendríamos que hablar sólo inglés. Gracias a la otra muchacha (que no conocemos) nos defendió y llamó a la policia, Y creo que se llevaron arrestada a la señora que nos estaba agrediendo. Siempre vi los videos en las redes y me daba coraje y hoy, que fue mi caso puedo decir que sentí una gran impotencia.
Posted by Faby VelSa on Monday, 1 October 2018
As Dwire showed no signs of calming down and as the situation grew more heated, Trent called the police. Arresting officer Carlos Cornejo later reported that he heard Dwire yelling “something to the effect of ‘this is what is wrong with our country’ and ‘they should not be speaking Spanish here.’”
Dwire claimed to the officers that she had only been exercising her freedom to speech and that she was offended that the two women she harassed “didn’t have the respect to speak English.”
Despite her defense, the police arrested Dwire and took her Garfield County Jail. Dwire was charged with two counts of bias-motivated harassment and released on bond.
Dwire later told reporters that this is not the first time she has confronted people in public for not speaking in English. She claimed: “It has nothing to do with race. It’s a patriotic thing. When people come to my country, they need to love it enough to speak English.”
Asserting that US immigration laws should require immigrants learn English, Dwire added that she has received threats since the incident blew up online and noted that she is unsure whether she will be able to find an attorney to take her case when she returns to court in November.