Muslim Volunteer: Attack in Santa Clara - NBC Bay Area

Muslim Volunteer: Attack in Santa Clara

Workers at an information booth at a wine festival say a man attacked a volunteer.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Man Allegedly Attacks Muslim in Santa Clara

    Santa Clara police are investigating an assault that may be linked to the deadly attack in Libya that Chris Stevens. (Published Monday, Sept. 17, 2012)

    Tili Ayala was sitting at the "Why Islam?" booth at the Santa Clara Art and Wine Festival on Saturday. She was crocheting peace flowers made of yarn. Other Muslim volunteers at the booth were handing out educational literature on Islam, when she says a man came up to the group screaming.

    "This gentleman just came up to our booth and started cursing and started (saying) that 'You are all terrorists,' " Ayala said.

    Ayala claims this went on for a couple of minutes when -- without any warning -- the angry man allegedly attacked a volunteer.     

    "He took a swing and he punched one of our volunteers," Ayala said. "Just punched him in the eye. And his eye was swollen and he started bleeding."

    Santa Clara police officers arrested the man for assault. Ayala believes the current unrest and tension in Libya, Egypt and other parts of the Middle East led up to the assault.

    "That stirred up hatred I believe within the public," Ayala said. 

    When asked if she thought it was a hate crime, Ayala agreed saying "it's sad and it's unfortunate."

    Santa Clara police say they're not ruling out the possibility that the assault was a hate crime.

    That is a possibility and that's typically a charging decision," Santa Clara Police Capt. Phil Cooke said. "Once we get all the facts together that would be decided by the District Attorney's office."

    Tili Ayala said she can still see the Muslim volunteer's swollen and bleeding eye. 

    "I hope justice is served because it's not okay, especially in America," Ayala said. "It is not okay just to come up to someone and to punch them because we are expressing our freedom of speech."