Two separate “hate-motivated” events that occurred on Wednesday are now being investigated by the Edmonton Police Service’s hate-crime unit.
At around 12:10 p.m. on Wednesday, a Muslim woman wearing a hijab was waiting inside the University of Alberta transit centre when she reported being approached by a man she didn’t know.
According to a police news release issued on Friday, the man made racial comments and became more aggressive toward the 19-year-old, “posturing as though he was about to assault her.”
An Edmonton transit employee was able to intervene and the suspect left the area. Police are working with U of A security and reviewing surveillance video of the incident.
Then, at about 1:10 p.m., a Muslim woman wearing a burka was walking on the sidewalk in the area of 100 Street and 82 Avenue when she was approached by an unknown man who stopped in front of the woman and blocked her path.
The man allegedly began swearing and yelling insults at the 27-year-old victim. The man then left and crossed the street.
The woman thought he was gone and continued walking east, crossing 99 Street. The suspect returned, coming up behind the woman and pushing her to the ground. According to police, he was making threats to kill her and tear off her burka.
“These recent attacks, in addition to the December attacks at Southgate Mall, all happened in public areas and in daytime, which shows an extremely alarming trend threatening the safety of the Muslim community,” EPS Sgt. Gary Willits, of the EPS Hate Crimes and Violent Extremism Unit, said.
“We recognize the impact and trauma of these attacks are significant to the victims, their loved ones, and the broader community. We will be working closely with community leaders to seek solutions.”
In a statement, Mayor Don Iveson said he is extremely disturbed by the attacks and condemns them wholeheartedly.
“To the victims, I’m so sorry you experienced this traumatic event. Islamophobia and misogyny have no place in Edmonton. You deserve to feel safe and welcome in your community,” he said.
“In addition to supporting initiatives that fight hate and racism, these disturbing instances are a stark reminder to all Edmontonians, especially the privileged among us who hold a disproportionate amount of power in our city, to do our part to be anti-racist and anti-hate.
“This behaviour has no place in our city.”
At this time, the Hate Crimes and Violent Extremism Unit is treating these as two separate events. A spokesperson for Edmonton police said it’s too soon to say whether the same man committed both attacks.
Anyone with information about either attack is asked to call Edmonton police at 780-423-4567 or #377 from a mobile phone. Anonymous information can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online.
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