A Black woman in Los Angeles who was beaten and pepper-sprayed this week by Trump supporters while her arms were held down said she is lucky to be alive.
Berlinda Nibo, 25, said she was walking past a “Stop the Steal” protest outside Los Angeles City Hall on Wednesday during the attempted coup in Washington, DC, when a group of Trump supporters started asking who she voted for, saying “white lives matter,” and calling her the n-word. Nibo said she then flipped them off and told them to leave her alone and that they should be wearing masks.
Soon after, Nibo realized a group of about 30 people kept following her and she quickened her pace, but the Trump supporters blocked her path and swarmed her. A man she recorded on her cellphone falsely accused her of hitting someone else and scratched her eyes and took her phone.
Footage captured by Nibo of the man shows him accusing her of “assaulting that guy” and grabbing her phone. Other people then started hitting Nibo, pulled off her wig, and pepper-sprayed her.
“I thought I was going to die,” Nibo told BuzzFeed News. “If I didn’t stand up for myself, this group of people were going to beat me to death. I kept telling myself, ‘Don’t fall down because you’ll get stampeded.'”
Nibo and a photographer who captured the attack said Los Angeles police officers were across the street, but never intervened.
The attack occurred on the same day a mob of nearly all-white Trump supporters breached and ransacked the US Capitol. The response from authorities in Washington, DC, resulted in criticism of a double standard over how police responded to the pro-Trump insurrection versus Black Lives Matter protesters over the summer.
At one point during the attack, Nibo said a man came up behind her, tightly put his arms around her, and held her arms at her side, and told her, “I got you, calm down, these people are going to try to kill you.” Nibo didn’t fight back because in that moment she did need help and she believed him.
But while the man was carrying her with her hands at her sides, someone pepper-sprayed her in the face for at least the third time.
“It did not help me,” Nibo said. “It would’ve helped me more if he had made way for me to move out of there completely.”
Two bystanders ran up to the man and said they were with Nibo in order to get him to let her go, she said. The heroes, Nibo said, were those two women who then walked her to where LAPD officers were standing.
Raquel Natalicchio, the photographer who captured the incident, said the attack was very distressing to watch because she knows what it feels like to be a woman alone in a precarious situation.
“I can’t even imagine what it’s like for a woman of color,” Natalicchio told BuzzFeed News.
She said it was important to capture the attack on camera because she feared people wouldn’t believe Nibo after the fact.
“Too often, women of color are not believed or listened to,” Natalicchio added.
The attack on Nibo wasn’t the first violent incident at the Los Angeles protest on Wednesday, said Natalicchio, who had been covering the group. By the time Nibo was attacked, Natalicchio had seen the crowd push and strike three others, including journalists and people wearing black shirts who they believed were members of antifa.
“They were incredibly violent,” Natalicchio said. “They told me I better not be antifa because if I was they would find me. They were pretty much harassing anyone who was not a Trump supporter.”
Natalicchio said she and the two women helped Nibo walk over to the police officers, but when the women approached, a captain pushed one of them to the ground.
Natalicchio said the LAPD officers were across the street, less than 20 feet away from where Nibo was attacked.
“The police were there the entire time and didn’t move an inch,” she said.
The LAPD didn’t respond to questions about the captain or how the officers responded to the incident, but in a statement said the incident that’s been described as a hate crime is being investigated and witnesses or anyone with information should contact the department.
The LAPD also said the man who put his arms around Nibo and carried her appeared to have been “a good Samaritan, shielding and helping the woman, which she confirmed with her statements during the investigation.”
Nibo said she can’t say whether the man who grabbed her tried to help because she was blinded by the pepper-spray at that point.
The LAPD described the way he held her as a “bear hug from behind.” But Nibo said he held her so tight her chest was red from the pressure.
“It was hard enough for a person of my color to have red marks on my body — that’s how tight he was really holding me,” she said. “It was not fun. It was no bear hug. It was traumatizing.”
After a bystander washed her eyes with a saline solution, Nibo said officers asked her if she wanted to do a citizen’s arrest and to identify the people who attacked her. Nibo left shortly after with a friend when the officers were distracted by a separate brawl nearby.
Nibo went home covered in pepper spray, some of it dripping into her ear. But she’s holding out hope that police arrest the people who attacked her.
“My family and I are seeking privacy at this moment, so I can get some healing and also safety because now I’m even more worried with everything that happened at the US Capitol,” she said.