On the one-year anniversary of the assault on the Roque family, they gathered with their supporters at a McDonald’s restaurant in North Hollywood — the place where the incident occurred. For members of the family, they are still trying to recover from the emotional scars the attack inflicted on them.
“This is our first time again being here at the location itself,” Patricia Roque said. “We have tried to stay away from this location just because of just how much trauma this has caused us, and at one point, anything that resembled this establishment we have tried to avoid for a long time. But as time went on, we have learned to heal.”
On May 13, 2022, Patricia and her mother, Nerissa, were waiting in the drive-thru when they were rear-ended. The other driver, Nicholas Weber, drove up next to them, hurled racial slurs and drove off. He came back and threatened to kill them.
The two called 911 and Patricia’s father, Gabriel, arrived before the police. Gabriel was pushed to the ground by Weber, causing a broken rib, the family said. Weber then wrapped his hands around Nerissa’s neck. A bystander helped to subdue the assailant before police arrived.
Weber was charged with two felony batteries with hate crime enhancements, but those enhancements were later dropped in a preliminary hearing on April 17. Weber pleaded not guilty in an arraignment on May 1. Weber’s next court date is May 26.
During the gathering last Saturday, the Roques spoke about the handling of their case and how difficult it’s been for them from the very beginning — it appeared the police wanted to just brush what occurred away and they’ve felt disrespected by the court.
Ysabel Roque spoke first. She said she and her family are “dismayed” that the assault won’t be charged as a hate crime.
“It just shows that the justice system really isn’t giving enough justice to people like us, who want to seek justice,” said Ysabel.
“It’s been a rollercoaster ride for everyone. … We will still continue to fight for everyone who has been going through the same thing, who has been fighting through the same thing. And as much as we hope for this incident to be the last one, what we can do is prevent future events from happening.”
Her sister Patricia described how hard it’s been living near the place where she was assaulted — reliving the trauma of that day every time they drive by. However, she said that the campaign to get justice for her family is still going strong. She helped establish the Pilipino Youth Kollective (PYK), a new student youth organization at CSUN that campaigns for the rights of Filipinos in the San Fernando Valley.
“It’s one of the things that I’m able to do to give back to the community that has supported my family all throughout this entire year,” Patricia said, “and to highlight that this is not something that happens away from where we live. It happens real close, it happens to your neighbors, to people you know, to people out on the streets, to people who look like us.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s one of the [few] things that we can do as youth to prevent stuff from happening.”
Gabriel followed up by saying the attack has changed how the family looks at things and how they interact with others.
“From my point of view, the injuries have healed but the aftereffects of the event have yet to be healed,” Gabriel said. “Without the community, I think this is another thing that [would have] gone to the wayside because of the way this is being handled, from the very start, by the authorities.
“It was very evident, from the events that happened through[out] this year, that there is a lack of interest in pursuing justice.”
He lamented the slow judicial process that has dragged the case for over a year, saying he was “disappointed.” He said his family wasn’t looking for financial compensation, but for justice — not just for them, but for others in similar situations.
Nonetheless, Gabriel expressed his gratitude for the community members and organizations that have rallied around the family and given them their support.
“I thank the community for helping us and the others for bringing this all to life and also making us aware of the importance of supporting the community in their activities,” Gabriel said.
Nerissa also expressed her disappointment with the court’s decision to remove the hate crime enhancements, depriving the family of the justice they have been seeking. Still, she hasn’t given up hope.
“The day that it happened and up to now, it’s not easy for me and it’s not easy for my family, especially for you guys and [those] supporting my family since day one,” Nerissa said. “But all I know is our fight is your fight. We’re still not losing hope. We’re still going to fight as long as the community is here for me and my family.”
Patrick Roque, a community organizer with Migrante Los Angeles, recalled when he first heard about the incident. While taking a break at a boba shop, his sister Patricia called and told him what had occurred.
“At first I couldn’t believe what had happened, especially now with hate crimes on the rise,” Patrick said. “That night was a pretty heavy night, and this exact parking lot has pretty much made a mark on myself because right then and there, like with any hate crime, someone can die right on the spot.”
Patrick also said that his family was being discouraged from pursuing the case further by the police. “All throughout this case, we have learned that and experienced firsthand how the justice system treats immigrants and workers like my family. We’ve been dehumanized and not accommodated for when they testified in court.
“This is reflective of the for-profit system that upholds and maintains white supremacy.”