A Maryland man who was assaulted by a bicyclist who yelled racial slurs at him early Monday morning in Washington said he feared that the attack was just the beginning of what could happen to other people of color as organizers prepare to hold a “Unite the Right” rally in the city this weekend.
Ketchazo Paho, 34, said he was driving through Georgetown on his way home when he was assaulted by a bicyclist who struck him in the head with a metal bicycle lock.
The Metropolitan Police Department arrested a white suspect, Maxim Smith, and charged him with one count of assault with a dangerous weapon. The police said they were investigating to determine if the crime was motivated by hate or bias.
Mr. Smith, 24, was being held in jail pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday morning. It was unclear who would be representing him.
Mr. Paho, who is black, said that racial slurs had been slung at him before.
“What happened to me Monday is not foreign,” he said, though he added that slurs had never escalated to an attack before. With the “Unite the Right” rally coming up this weekend, Mr. Paho said he wanted members of minority groups to be aware of the dangers the protest could bring.
Last August in Charlottesville, Va., hundreds of white nationalists gathered to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. The rally became violent: One woman died and more than a dozen people were injured after a man plowed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters. An organizer of last year’s event has planned a “white civil rights” rally in Lafayette Park this weekend.
A National Park Service spokesman said on Wednesday that no permit for the organizers had been issued, but that one had been granted to a group called D.C. Unite Against Hate, which is planning to protest the rally.
A Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman said it was preparing for the rally with help from the United States Park Police.
About 1:40 a.m. on Monday, Mr. Paho had honked at the bicyclist, who was stopped in the middle of the road, according to a statement from S. Lee Merritt, Mr. Paho’s lawyer. The man turned and shouted “What do you want?” and Mr. Paho, who wanted to avoid a confrontation, decided to go around the bicyclist, Mr. Merritt said.
As he drove by, Mr. Paho said, Mr. Smith struck his black Ford Fusion with the metal bicycle lock. Mr. Paho turned the corner and pulled over to inspect his car. He called 911 to report the damage. That was when he said Mr. Smith confronted him and began yelling racial slurs at him, including calling him the N-word, Mr. Merritt said.
When Mr. Paho told Mr. Smith he would be paying for the damage to the car, he recalled, Mr. Smith became aggressive. Mr. Paho said he called 911 again during the argument, and he grabbed onto Mr. Smith’s bicycle to keep him there until the police arrived.
Mr. Smith then bashed him in the head with the bicycle lock, causing a two-inch cut, according to a police report. Blood poured onto his gray shirt, and Mr. Paho said he had to restrain himself from hitting back.
Mr. Paho was taken to a hospital, where he received 18 staples in his head, Mr. Merritt said.
Mr. Paho said it was scary that Mr. Smith had felt comfortable using the N-word so freely.
“They feel entitled,” he said, suggesting Mr. Smith was motivated by racism. “That’s something I think needs to be addressed.”
Mr. Merritt said he wanted the city and law enforcement officials to be prepared for what could happen during the rally. Mr. Merritt said he also represents DeAndre Harris, who was injured during the 2017 rally after he was attacked by a group. Mr. Harris was later acquitted of an assault charge related to an incident that happened moments before he was attacked.
“These kind of attacks are likely to occur during the second coming of the ‘Unite the Right’ rally,” Mr. Merritt said, “and it’s going to be important for law enforcement to take measures.”