In a video that went viral on Twitter, people wearing American flag-themed clothing, including one wearing a shirt supporting President Donald Trump, can be seen laughing at a Palestinian-American family who attended a pro-Palestine rally in Los Angeles on Sunday. Family members told HuffPost that the Trump supporters called their 5-year-old cousin a “little terrorist” shortly before the footage was captured.
One of the family members, Rawan Yasin, filmed the video and it was posted by her sister, Rania.
Twitter users and some media outlets have since identified the man in the video as John Turano, who’s best known for dressing up in Spartan-inspired costumes and attending alt-right protests as “Based Spartan.” But as of June, he has claimed he no longer identifies with the alt-right movement. The woman talking in the video and wearing the Trump shirt has been identified as Turano’s daughter, Bianca.
Another video, which shows the incident from Turano’s angle, captures Turano accusing the Yasin family of filming videos with their “little heebobs on,” in a mispronunciation of “hijabs.” Bianca can be heard shouting at the family, “You guys are terrorists. Get out of here.”
The girl’s older brother can be heard in the video calling Turano abusive names, which Rawan Yasin told HuffPost was a defensive reaction.
Turano called the 5-year-old “a little terrorist and so that’s what provoked the incident, it led to an argument.”
Turano responded to the incident with a Facebook video, seen by HuffPost, in which he said he never called the young girl a terrorist. But he can be heard in one of the videos from Sunday’s confrontation saying she “looks like one.”
The girl was holding a “Dump Trump” sign.
Turano also apologized for his actions, saying “he’s not a person for racism.”
“First of all, me and my family have been bombarded with hate from tons of groups ... and why? Because we stand against racism,” Turano said in the video, in which his daughter also appeared.
Even as he apologized, he claimed his actions on Sunday were sparked by members of the Palestinian-American family of yelling “death to Jews” at the rally ― which Rawan Yasin adamantly denied.
“My family did not say any of those things, and all arguments and incidents were provoked by Turano and his family members,” Yasin said. “We are in no way anti-Semitic or against Jewish people, we love and accept all faiths.”
Turano’s Facebook profile has since been removed.
Yasin told HuffPost she attended the march with her family to protest Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. They were returning to their car when the argument occurred, she said.
The family has contacted the Palestinian Youth Movement and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for guidance on the confrontation. Masih Fouladi, CAIR-LA’s advocacy manager, told HuffPost the group is monitoring the situation and is not reaching out to law enforcement at this time.
Fouladi said that what the Sunday videos capture is not a unique experience for the Muslim community.
“But one thing that makes this different is that it was caught on tape and clearly demonstrates the impact of the negative rhetoric of [Trump’s] administration and its supporters on impacted individuals like Muslims,” he said.
Acts of bigotry and hate crimes have increased since Trump emerged as a major political figure, a recent FBI report showed. Another study found that among seven major U.S. cities, six experienced a jump in anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2016.
Fouladi said his organization provides training on how to deal with hateful confrontations, which include not escalating the situation, determining an exit strategy if the situation does escalate and, if possible, recording the incident.
“It is also important for us to recognize there is nothing American in what these individuals did when they attacked a 5-year-old Muslim girl,” he said. “No amount of flags or accessories make this type of behavior acceptable. As Americans, we should embrace and benefit from our diversity and freedoms, not use those freedoms to belittle others.”