Two women are facing criminal civil rights charges and assault charges for what authorities allege was an unprovoked attack on a mother and daughter who were walking through Maverick Square in East Boston, talking to each other in Spanish, Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins’s office said Friday.
Jenny Leigh Ennamorati and Stephanie M. Armstrong, both 25 years old, are scheduled to appear in East Boston Municipal Court on March 9, prosecutors said. Their hometowns were not immediately available, and it was not known whether they had retained attorneys.
According to court records, Ennamorati faces charges including two counts of violating civil rights causing bodily injury, and one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a shod foot. The charges of violating civil rights causing bodily injury each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Armstrong faces two counts of violating civil rights and two counts of assault and battery.
Janelle Dempsey, an attorney with Lawyers for Civil Rights, an advocacy group helping the alleged victims, welcomed the news that criminal charges have been brought. The group has identified the mother only as Ms. Vasquez and has not named her daughter.
“This is an important step toward holding Ennamorati and Armstrong accountable for the vile and violent attack against a hard-working immigrant mother and her 15-year-old daughter based on their race, identity, culture, and native language," Dempsey said in a statement, adding that the prosecution “will go a long way in setting a powerful precedent for addressing the wave of hate that has spiked in Massachusetts and across the country.”
Ennamorati and Armstrong allegedly attacked a 46-year-old woman and her 15-year-old daughter on Feb. 15, an attack that was captured by a nearby surveillance camera and triggered a demand by community activists for more attention to hate crime issues by law enforcement in East Boston.
The video was released by the Lawyers for Civil Rights, which also launched a GoFundMe page to offer financial support to the Vasquez family. The page had raised $636 as of Friday afternoon.
Vasquez spoke to reporters about the incident, identifying herself only by her last name, telling reporters that her assailants shouted, “This is America," ordered her and her daughter to speak English, and shouted that they should “go back to your [expletive] country.”
“We were punched, bitten,” she said through a Spanish interpreter. “My daughter was punched in the head.”
Vasquez said her daughter remains frightened and hasn’t been able to sleep well since the attack.
“My family and I are afraid,” Vasquez said. But “we refuse to live in fear. We refuse to stay silent, as we were attacked based on our race, our language, and our identity.”
Rollins said in a statement that the mother and daughter were attacked “because they were laughing and speaking in Spanish. … Hate and intolerance do not belong in Suffolk County. The sense of right and privilege that these defendants must have felt to say these words of hate and racism, and then physically attack a mother and her daughter for laughing and speaking Spanish, it’s outrageous and reprehensible.”
The charges came after an investigation by the Boston Police Department’s Civil Rights Unit, Rollins said. In her statement, Rollins thanked the people who witnessed the attack for intervening.
Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.