The two women, their fingers extended at each other, clearly thought that too much was at stake.
Linda Dwire was outraged over two women speaking Spanish in the aisle of a grocery store in Rifle, Colo., on Monday. She confronted them over what she believed was an erosion of American values.
Then another woman intervened to restore civility in a personal moment inflamed by national tension over immigration policy and American identity.
“I’m calling the cops. You leave these women alone! Get out!” Kamira Trent roared in a video taken by one of the women.
“You come from a generation — ” Dwire began to reply.
Trent cut her off. “No, I do not. I have respect. You do not harass people.”
Dwire pointed at Trent.
“You will lose your country,” she said. “You know what, you will lose this country.”
Dwire headed down the aisle as Trent continued, and a store employee gave chase. “You do not harass Hispanic women!” Trent said.
Trent called the police, and Dwire was arrested and charged with two counts of bias-motivated harassment, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by The Washington Post. Dwire was released on bond and is due in court next month, BuzzFeed reported.
Trent did not return a request for comment, nor did Fabiola Velasquez, who shot the video. Velasquez and her friend Isabel Marin are from Mexico, BuzzFeed reported.
Dwire could not be reached for comment, although she told the responding officer that she found Spanish “offensive,” according to the affidavit. Dwire asked the women if they liked living in the United States. They told her yes.
“Linda told them to speak English and be an American,” Rifle Police Department Sgt. Carlos Cornejo wrote.
Dwire maintained that she was exercising her freedom of speech and did not raise her voice with the two women, contradicting the accounts of the other women involved. Dwire told them to get out of the country, Cornejo wrote.
Dwire continued to yell and rant at the entrance of the City Market as Cornejo approached. She told a store employee something to the effect of “this is what is wrong with our country” with a flurry of her hands, he wrote.
She ignored commands to stop and was handcuffed after trying to walk away, Cornejo wrote.
Marin told Cornejo she began to walk away because Dwire “was being very aggressive and she was afraid she was going to hurt her.” Velasquez had two young children with her, Cornejo wrote. Both women were crying, he added.
Dwire told BuzzFeed she is not racist.
“It has nothing to do with race. It’s a patriotic thing,” she told the outlet. “When people come to my country, they need to love it enough to speak English.”
Trent told BuzzFeed she had originally stepped in to de-escalate the situation, but she maintained her position after it became heated.
“Letting that happen is really what’s wrong with our country,” she said.