A California congressional candidate could soon the be the subject of a hate crimes investigation after she posted a video of herself harassing a transgender woman in a Denny’s bathroom, according to officials.
Jazmina Saavedra, Republican candidate for the 44th District of California, filmed herself for more than seven minutes trying to chase a transgender woman out of a bathroom and calling her a man.
In the viral video, Saavedra films the woman for several minutes inside the bathroom and then exits and waits outside for her to leave.
“This is so stupid in California,” she says. “This is why the sick politicians, are approve [sic] put in danger a woman like me and some other customers trying to use the restroom with a man inside saying he’s a lady.”
She then re-enters the bathroom, filming as a restaurant employee escorts the victim out of the restaurant. Saavedra posted the video to her social media accounts.
In a joint statement released Tuesday, the Human Rights Campaign and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law called on California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to investigate Saavendra for committing a hate crime under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which protects transgender people in public accommodations.
“Jazmina Saavedra’s actions are dangerous,” said HRC President Chad Griffin in the statement. “She invaded a woman’s privacy while harassing and misgendering the victim. This type of discriminatory behavior is unacceptable, especially from someone seeking to represent the people of California.”
A spokesperson for Becerra said his office is taking the incident and the request to investigate it seriously.
“The footage from this video is concerning,” the spokesperson said in a statement to INTO. “We are carefully reviewing the request to look into this matter.”
It is unusual for confrontations that don’t involve physical assault to be prosecuted as hate crimes. According to the video, Saavedra did not physically assault the trans woman. HRC’s Nick Morrow says the incident should fall under a hate crime because under California law, hate crimes can include misdemeanors in addition to physical assault and other crimes.
That could be a hard sell for some queer people. Many LGBTQ rights groups have abandoned support for hate crime prosecution, arguing that it relies on a system that disproportionately punishes people of color.
Asked why HRC was supporting the investigation as a hate crime, Morrow referred to a statement from the Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee.
“Across our country, we are seeing a spike in hate crimes targeted at our nation’s most vulnerable communities,” Clarke said. “We urge State Attorney General Becerra to use every tool in his arsenal to determine whether Ms. Saavedra’s conduct violates state law. 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.”
California has a low tolerance for anti-trans harassment in public restrooms. The state is currently suing San Francisco after one of its city employees allegedly refused to let a trans woman use a bathroom at a city agency and then refused to investigate it.
Saavedra did not immediately respond to a request to comment.