A Palestinian refugee who moved to Canada to escape what he felt was a racist environment in the U.S. says he’s shaken after a road rage altercation on Wednesday that led police to charge a man and investigate whether the altercation was hate-motivated.
The man who was charged, meanwhile, admits he lost his temper but says he isn’t racist — he hates everyone “equally.”
The incident, captured on video, took place on Wednesday around 5:20 p.m. when a man was driving his car on Bow Trail, near 24th Street S.W.
- WATCH | Watch the road rage incident that prompted charges, above (note: profanities have been bleeped out by the CBC)
A man driving a Ford F-150 pickup truck began tailgating the car and honking, the Calgary Police Service said in a statement on Thursday.
The man in the car, Tamer Abu Hassira, applied his brakes and the driver of the truck got in front of him and came to a stop on the roadway, police said.
The man in the truck got out yelling and banged his fist against the car before returning to his vehicle and reversing so that he was behind the man in the car.
He then drove in front of the car again, stopped, got out and began yelling “profanity, vague threats and derogatory comments,” while banging on the car window, police said in a news release on Thursday.
“The man then called the car driver a ‘terrorist’ and stated he had a picture of ‘Allah and Muhammad’ in his truck, before ripping the windshield wiper off the car,” police said.
“The suspect returned to his vehicle and drove away.”
Hassira says he moved to Calgary to escape racism in Texas
Hassira told CBC News he moved to Canada to escape racism he experienced in the United States after moving to Houston in 2017 as a Palestinian refugee from the Gaza Strip.
He said he’s extremely shaken up by the road rage incident.
“It’s very, very sad for me,” he said.
Hassira said he’s worried about his children and for his own safety.
“I cannot leave my home, because I don’t know what happened for me if I go outside my home,” he said.
Police say they arrived on scene after the incident on Wednesday, reviewed the video evidence captured by the victim and were quickly able to identify the owner of the truck, who was arrested at his home.
Police have charged Alex John Hudson, 27, of Calgary, with mischief to a motor vehicle.
Accused says he was initially upset at slow driving
Hudson told CBC News on Thursday evening that, from his perspective, the incident was a simple matter of a traffic-based conflict and his comments, while intended to be hurtful, were not specifically directed at Hassira because he is Palestinian.
“I learned today what a Palestinian even is,” he said.
Hudson said he was initially upset because Hassira was driving below the 70 km/h speed limit and obstructing other drivers.
“He was doing 46 [km/h]. So, when I caught up to him, I gave him two little quick honks — beep, beep — and he gives me the finger and hits the brakes. I just miss him. I’m like, feet away from him in my big truck. He was in a little, tiny car.”
Hudson said he believed from the “brake-check” manoeuvre and the existing damage he saw on the car’s rear bumper that the other driver may have been trying to run an insurance scam, attempting to deliberately be rear-ended.
He admits he lost his temper and was “just going for the throat” with the comments he made, which were directed at what he believed to be Hassira’s religion, but says he doesn’t have a particular issue with Muslims.
“I just would have snapped on anyone; it doesn’t matter what race you are,” he said.
“It’s just become some big racial thing now. Like, … my girlfriend’s Filipino, my daughter’s half-Black. It’s got nothing to do with race. I hate everyone equally. People are toxic. I hate everyone equally. I don’t care what colour you are.”
“I shouldn’t have got so angry,” he added.
Police probe whether ‘hate-motivated bias contributed’
Police say while it appears the altercation began as a road rage incident, they are investigating whether “hate-motivated bias contributed to the ongoing interaction.”
“Incidents where a person is targeted for their race or culture have a significant impact on not only the victim, but the broader community, as it can impact their sense of safety,” Senior Const. Craig Collins, hate crimes co-ordinator with the Calgary Police Service, said in a news release.
“We take these concerns very seriously and work with our various cultural and racialized communities to offer support while the investigative process is underway.”
If a suspect is found guilty, a judge can then determine whether hate was a motivating factor, which can add to a person’s sentence.
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