A Portland woman has been charged under Oregon's bias crime law for attacking and berating a woman from Saudi Arabia in downtown Portland in November. The alleged victim, a 23-year-old foreign exchange student from Portland State University (PSU) who has not been identified, says she was targeted for wearing a hijab, a head scarf worn by some Muslim women.
The Multnomah County District Attorneys office issued a warrant for the suspect, 23-year-old Jasmine Campbell, after she failed to appear in court Friday morning.
An affidavit filed by the DA's office alleges that Campbell approached the victim at a MAX station near SW Yamhill and 10th at 7:20 pm on November 12. Campbell allegedly grabbed the victim's hijab and attempted to choke her with it, before forcibly pulling the scarf off of her body. Then, according to the DA, Campbell removed all of her own clothes—except for a leather jacket—and began dancing and rubbing the hijab accross her naked body.
As the affidavit explains: "Defendant then placed the hijab between her legs, rubbed it against her naked vagina, then stretched out the hijab and began vaginally flossing herself with the hijab."
Campbell was eventually arrested by Portland police officers who'd been called to the scene, who, after reading Campbell her Miranda Rights, asked why she chose to assault the PSU student.
"The defendant stated that she was fighting and playing around, that she wanted to be a stripper, and she wanted to show the victim that she did not have to be a Muslim, that people don't have to be black or white, and that she wanted the victim to know that religion doesn't define her," the affidavit reads.
Campbell has been charged with two counts of bias crimes in the second degree—along with three other misdemeanor charges.
According to court documents, the victim has replaced her hijab with a knit cap and scarf, out of fear that wearing a hijab in public will make her a target again.
Campbell is one of several Portlanders in the past few years who've attacked women for wearing hijabs in public. In 2018, OPB interviewed a woman who wore a hijab who'd been harassed while leaving work in downtown Portland. In 2017, Jeremy Christian fatally stabbed two men on the MAX who had tried to defend a pair of women dressed in hijabs who'd been the target of Christian's anti-Muslim epithets.
"This is a brutal hate crime, and falls in line with other attacks we've seen locally and accross the country under this [presidential] administration," says Zakir Khan, the board chair of the Oregon chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). "Women wear hijabs as a symbol of faith. Rather than people respecting that symbol, they are deciding to act out against them in violence. It's unacceptable."
Khan is hopeful that the Oregon Legislature's recent updates to the state's hate crimes law—which comes with harsher penalties for suspects—will improve the state's previously lackluster response to hate crimes committed against Muslims and other minority communities in Oregon.
However, he'd like to see a larger financial contribution to the state's victim support programs to help non-American victims who've been disproportionately targeted by these crimes.
"Cultural competency is crucial for victim advocates," says Khan. "Being the victim of a hate crime is only made worse when you don't understand the culture or the customs of a country."