The man, who was standing on the driver’s side, fluttered his hand in a wave then yelled “white power!” and made a Nazi salute. Then he grabbed a shovel and slammed it against the car as Lopez’s boyfriend backed up and sped away.
On Friday, the married couple in the video, Gregory and Rachel Howell, both 29, were arrested on hate crime and vandalism charges, police said.
As America has grappled with mass protests against racial inequality since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in May, hate crimes have also made recent headlines. In June, a self-identified Ku Klux Klan leader was charged with a hate crime after driving through peaceful protesters in Richmond, while in Wisconsin, a school district called for hate crime charges against a White woman who spat on a Black student during a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration.
A report from the Census Bureau found these hate crimes and other racist interactions have taken a toll on the mental health of African Americans, with the rate of those reporting significant anxiety and depression jumping from 36 to 41 percent.
For Lopez, 25, the firsthand experience of hate was jarring. “I experience racism in a extremely traumatic way,” she wrote in the Instagram video’s caption.
Lopez wrote she and her boyfriend were “harassed for miles.” By the time they hit a red light at the intersection of Artesia Boulevard and Prairie Avenue just before 10:30 p.m. on July 22, Gregory and Rachel Howell allegedly stopped in front of them and quickly got out of the car. That’s when Lopez started recording.
“We were just in shock. We didn’t know what was going on,” Lopez told KTLA.
In the video, Lopez and her boyfriend can be heard laughing in disbelief when Gregory Howell said “white power.”
“This is crazy!” Lopez said. “The s--- we have to go through in 2020.”
But the tone of their conversation shifted when the couple stood in the way of the car, blocking Lopez and her boyfriend from driving away. Police said the pair damaged the driver’s side mirror.
“Never in my life did I think I was gonna experience this,” Lopez told KTLA. “It’s actually really scary. They don’t even know you, and they’re willing to hurt you.”
Not long after driving away, Lopez and her boyfriend found the couple’s truck outside a Starbucks and recorded the license plate. The following day they reported the incident to the Torrance Police Department. In a news release the department said the crime started as a “road rage situation.”
In an interview with KTLA before the arrest, Lopez said she wanted justice.
“I don’t want them to just go freely and continue to do this to someone else,” she said.