“Go Back to Your Own Country” City Official Victim of Racist Attack – Can First Amendment Rights Protect Hate Speech?

A Massachusetts woman, Joan Ditomaso, faced the consequences of her actions after launching a hateful and racially charged attack on Maya Jamaleddine, a city councilor who is also the first Muslim elected to public office in Melrose. Here’s the whole story.

Random Racist Attack

The confrontation occurred when Joan Ditomaso, a 68-year-old resident of Melrose, approached Maya Jamaleddine, who was at the gas station with her husband, Abdallah, and their two children, filling up their tires with air.

In a shocking outburst, Ditomaso yelled racist remarks at Jamaleddine, including derogatory comments such as, “What are you looking at, you terrorist Arab? Go back to your own country.”

The situation quickly escalated, with Abdallah coming to his wife’s defense and recording the incident, including Ditomaso’s license plate.

In the video, Abdallah Jamaleddine questioned why Ditomaso made such derogatory remarks, to which she responded with swear words.

Turning Violent

The quarrel turned physical when Ditomaso shoved Abdallah, leaving the councilor and her children traumatized.

While the Massachusetts branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations had called for a hate crime investigation, the Melrose Police Department determined that the incident warranted charges of assault and battery but not a hate crime.

On Tuesday, in Madlen District Court, Ditomaso pleaded not guilty to the charges, but she later admitted to assaulting Abdallah.

The judge sentenced her to six months of probation and mandated her participation in an anti-Islamophobia course.

Emotional Trauma

After Tuesday’s court hearing, Jamaleddine said, “I hope one day, we’ll be able to overcome this,”

“Although I doubt it,” she added.

At the court hearing, Maya Jamaleddine read a statement on behalf of her husband, who was emotionally affected by the incident.

Abdallah expressed concerns about their safety and said, “I was scared she was going to use our license plate number to figure out where we live. I was afraid she knew powerful people who could hurt us.”

He also highlighted the emotional trauma inflicted on their children, who were forced into a safety position they had learned in case of an active shooter.

Freedom of Hate Speech?

Ditomaso’s attorney, Matthew Campbell, defended his client’s actions by invoking the First Amendment, arguing that Abdallah Jamaleddine had provoked the attack by recording Ditomaso’s license plate.

He contended that, despite the reprehensible language used, freedom of speech was at play and that the incident was primarily political.

Several social media users shared their thoughts on the incident.

One Twitter user wrote, “Some people are not compatible with Western culture and values,” while another user added, “Absolutely despicable.”

A third user commented, “The reason we call it America is because we are all made from families who came here legally. So if someone is here and wants to or is living here, do not tell them to go back from whence they came.”

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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Ljupco Smokovski

Source: Daily Mail