The Human Rights Campaign and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law are demanding an investigation after California Republican congressional candidate Jazmina Saavedra recorded a video of her following a transgender woman into a public restroom and harassing her until she left the premises.
The incident, which Saavedra shared on Facebook Live last week, took place at a Los Angeles-area Denny’s, with Saavedra attempting to confront the transgender woman, claiming she was a man and was violating Saavedra’s (and other women’s) privacy by using the female restroom.
Throughout Saavedra’s tirade, said partially to the woman and partially to the camera, she complains about protections for transgender people under California’s civil rights law, frequently misgenders the woman using the restroom, and even alludes to the fact that she was prepared to use pepper spray and a stun gun against the woman.
HRC and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law claim that, if the incident, as broadcast by Saavedra, is accurate, it could potentially be considered a hate crime. That’s why both organizations say it’s of the utmost importance that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra investigate the incident.
“Across our country, we are seeing a spike in hate crimes targeted at our nation’s most vulnerable communities. We urge State Attorney General Becerra to use every tool in his arsenal to determine whether Ms. Saavedra’s conduct violates state law,” Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyer’s Committee, said in a statement. “As the federal government continues to retreat from its responsibility to prevent and prosecute hate crimes, we urge state law enforcement agencies to step in, fill the void and protect the rights of survivors.”
The Human Rights Campaign blasted Saavedra for her actions at the restaurant.
“Jazmina Saavedra’s actions are dangerous. She invaded a woman’s privacy while harassing and misgendering the victim,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “This type of discriminatory behavior is unacceptable, especially from someone seeking to represent the people of California.”
“The footage from this video is concerning,” a spokesperson for Becerra’s office said in a statement. “We are carefully reviewing the request to look into this matter.”
Unfortunately, actions like Saavedra’s may not be that uncommon. According to the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey, 59% of transgender or non-binary people say they avoid using restrooms in public for fear that they will be harassed. Nearly 1 in 4 transgender or non-binary people say they’ve been questioned about their restroom usage, with 1 in 8 saying they were verbally, physically, or sexually attacked for using restrooms matching their gender identity.
Saavedra is running against Democratic U.S. Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán in California’s 44th Congressional District, which is based in Long Beach. Only the top two vote-getters in the June 5 primary will advance to the general election in November.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include comment from the California Attorney General’s office.