Woman charged with hate crimes for throwing coffee on Indian American man and his toddler
By Michelle De Pacina
November 27, 2023
A 48-year-old woman from Brooklyn has been arrested on hate crime charges for allegedly assaulting an Indian American man she mistook for being Palestinian at a playground in New York.
What happened: In the now-viral video of the attack in Fort Greene on Nov. 7, Hadasa Bozakkaravani can be seen confronting presidential campaign staffer Ashish Prashar, 40, who was with his 18-month-old son while at the basketball court at Edmonds Playground on Dekalb Avenue. The Indian American father was reportedly wearing a traditional Arab scarf (keffiyeh) when the woman accused him of being a terrorist and of supporting the Palestinian militant group Hamas. In the video, Bozakkaravani can be seen throwing her cellphone and coffee at Prashar and his son.
Moments before the incident: According to Prashar, the woman became upset after his son started to interact with the boy in her care in what Prashar believed to be a “really cute” moment between the children. Prashar says that Bozakkaravani appeared annoyed by their interaction, causing her to get up from a nearby bench to tell Prashar and his son to “get away from us.”
“You and your son are terrorists. Get out of here. You don’t belong here,” Prashar recalled the woman saying, noting that it was probably “the keffiyeh and the color of my skin [that triggered her].”
Prashar said that he tried to de-escalate the situation by grabbing his son and recording her, but it only made it worse. “She storms towards us and I am holding my son in my arms. She throws her phone at us. I duck,” Prashar told the New York Post.
A few moments later, Prashar saw the woman’s hot coffee flying toward him. Although the cup “clipped” him, the splattered liquid did not cause any burns. Prashar said he only suffered some scrapes after being struck during her attempt to wrestle away his phone. Bozakkaravani reportedly grabbed the boy she was with and left the playground when a witness walked up to check on Prashar and his son.
Arrest and charges: Bozakkaravani was arrested on Tuesday after turning herself in and was charged with four hate crime counts: assault, assault of a person under 11, reckless endangerment, aggravated harassment and menacing, according to the New York Police Department (NYPD).
Bozakkaravani has pleaded not guilty to all nine charges against her and was released on her own recognizance.
About the victim: Prashar, a political strategist, criminal justice activist and a vocal supporter of Palestinian rights, has reportedly worked as a press secretary for former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, President Joe Biden in 2020 and Barack Obama in 2008. The keffiyeh he was wearing during the incident was reportedly given to him more than a decade ago as a gift by a Christian Palestinian while he was working on the peace process in the West Bank.
Victim’s statement: He criticized the NYPD for taking nearly two weeks to arrest Bozakkaravani even though “they knew exactly where she is.” He also criticized her release by her own recognizance, expressing concern for the safety of children.
“I don’t think it’s the right decision,” Prashar told the Post. “She is willing to attack a child and didn’t care of the consequences. Who’s to say she won’t do it again. I think the judge made a horrible decision. Your goal should be to protect our children… She was willing to burn a child on the playground. The person is not fit to be on the streets right now.”
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