When Fourth of July Turned Ugly

Rusty Kennedy, CEO, OC Human Relations

A Turkish American man (Matt) bought an apartment building in Huntington Beach and proceeded to rehabilitate the property over the next year.  When he completed the renovation and was ready to rent out units, he decided it was the perfect time to throw a little party with his friends.  Fourth of July weekend in Huntington Beach was the setting for what started as a festive celebration and ended in a racist hate crime.

Matt’s neighbors were also holding a party and their guests parked blocking Matt’s driveway.  When Matt went to inform his neighbors, he was rudely dismissed.

Later that night when most guests had left both parties, Matt’s neighbors, two large White men with closely cropped hair and no shirts, came over and started yelling at Matt that he was a “f*cking foreigner” and “not White”, and that he should “go back to his country”.  When Matt tried to de-escalate the onslaught of verbal abuse his neighbor “spit on him” and threatened to “beat him to death,” breaking the fence between the two properties in the process.

Fearing for his life, Matt called the police – who are currently investigating the case – and OC Human Relations for help.

When I took his call, Matt, a an engineer by profession, was not sure what the police response would be, he feared returning to his property, and felt alone and unwelcome in his country, the United States.

OC Human Relations supported Matt with empathy and understanding, greatly reducing his anxiety and isolation.  We reached out to the police department to share his trepidation and got a great response from Chief Robert Handy.  We advised him about the possibility of seeking a Temporary Restraining Order if he felt continued danger from his neighbors.

Last week Matt came to the OC Human Relations Commission meeting to tell his story.  He expressed appreciation for the assistance, saying “Talking with Rusty made me feel that I was no longer alone.”   It helped him understand that the Huntington Beach Police, County of Orange, and the good people of our community stand with him and against hate, bigotry and violence.

Now Matt wants to volunteer to help at OC Human Relations in order to see that others who face this type of hate and violence will be protected.

Matt’s story is one of the hate crimes that OC Human Relations Commission documents in the annual 2013 Hate Crime Report.    Click here to read the report.