A chef at an uptown Charlotte restaurant told police she was attacked Saturday by a woman who hurled anti-gay slurs then body-slammed her to the ground.
“Never have I ever felt so alone,” she said. “I had seven girls staring at me, looking at me, with hate in their eyes.”
Charlotte police charged two 17-year-olds with misdemeanor assault and have asked the FBI whether the girls could be charged under the federal hate crime law.
Thomasena Michelle Chisolm and Kiara Marie Johnson, both 17, are charged with misdemeanor assault in an attack Saturday in uptown Charlotte. A judge ordered them released from jail Tuesday to the custody of family members.
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The woman who reported the attack said that she is accustomed to verbal attacks because she is gay. Since the passage of North Carolina’s House Bill 2, she said such inflammatory remarks have intensified. It’s almost, she said, as if the new law – which nullified Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance – gave people permission to be hateful.
But until Saturday, she said she had never before been physically assaulted.
She agreed to talk because “if I don’t, it’s just going to keep happening.” She said she is still so shaken, she spoke to the Observer only on the condition that she not be identified.
The taunting begins
She said the assault occurred as she and a co-worker were walking home after work early Saturday evening. She said they passed a group of six or seven females and one male on Trade Street between Tryon and Church. Without any provocation, she said, one of the women yelled out:
“Hey, are you a stud?”
A stud is a euphemism for a masculine-looking lesbian.
She said she didn’t respond, didn’t make eye contact and kept walking. But, she said, the woman continued to taunt: “Oh, yeah, you are a stud.”
Again, she said she ignored the verbal harassment. She said the woman then screamed a string of derogatory statements, including: “You’re a faggot. ... You’re a queer....”
She screamed, “You’re f------ going to die!” and … she jumped right on me with a hit to the face.
Chef who reported she was targeted because she is gay; she spoke on condition she not be identified
She said she didn’t respond. She said it’s the way she reacts under such circumstances. “I don’t pay them any mind.”
Attacked from behind
But as she and her co-worker crossed Church Street, they realized the group was following.
“All of a sudden, the guy comes up beside me and said, ‘Let me ask you a question.’ That’s when she attacked me. She screamed, ‘You’re f------ going to die!’ and … she jumped right on me with a hit to the face.
“I hit the ground pretty hard. She kicked me a couple of times in the ribs.”
She said her co-worker pulled the assailant away, and a second female then turned on the co-worker, punching her in the face.
“They didn’t say anything about me,” said the co-worker, who is heterosexual. “The only reason we got attacked is because she is gay. It’s a straight-up hate crime. They were young girls – too young to have that much anger in their heart.”
Police arrested two teenagers about an hour later. Capt. Mike Campagna said that earlier in the day police had received reports about the group harassing other people.
Thomasena Michelle Chisolm and Kiara Marie Johnson were charged with misdemeanor assault. A judge ordered them released from jail Tuesday to the custody of family members.
They were young girls – too young to have that much anger in their heart.
Co-worker of assault victim, who also asked not to be identified
Both girls have been arrested multiple times before, but most charges were dismissed. Johnson was found guilty of breaking and entering earlier this year, and is awaiting trial on a larceny charge. Chisolm faces a trial on possession of a stolen motor vehicle.
‘Will it happen again?’
The woman who reported the attack moved to Charlotte from Ohio three years ago. “Everything was good,” she said. “I’ve never been the type of person to throw my sexuality in people’s faces. … But for some reason, this past year, something has been in the air. People have been noticing me more than before.”
She wears her blond hair short in a mohawk. “I dress like a boy,” she said.
After the attack, her co-worker said her friend kept apologizing. “She kept saying, ‘It’s only because of who I am that we got jumped. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.’ ”
The co-worker, who is 24, said she still gets goosebumps thinking about the emotional toll on her friend after being attacked simply for who she is.
“It’s terrible to live that way, to live in such fear. Now it’s like, when will it happen again?”
Researcher Maria David contributed.