Three men have been arrested and authorities in Kingston, Ont., say they're seeking a fourth after six Queen's University undergraduates were allegedly assaulted in what police are calling a "hate-based attack" — a harrowing incident recounted in an interview today with CBC News.
The six students, who all have some South Asian ancestry, were walking home together from a movie early Sunday morning when four white men estimated to be between 18 and 25 years old approached them on bicycles.
"I was hearing chants. They were screaming out loud, 'You cowards' and stuff like that," said one of the students, who asked that CBC News not publish his name because he's concerned about possible reprisals.
"One guy actually swung a weapon at me. It was dark there, so I don't really know what type of weapon it was."
The engineering student, who is in his early 20s, said the assailants got off their bikes, and came after him and his friends.
"They were chanting, you know, 'We have a machete, let's slit their throat,' and 'Asians, Muslims, [N-word], go back to your country,' and stuff like that. 'White power, white power,' they were chanting."
The students fled, but one of them, who had an injured knee, was caught, according to the engineering student. He said it turned out the assailants' weapon was actually a baseball bat. The man with the knee injury "was hit on the thigh and biceps," and suffered only slight injuries because the attackers ran off very soon thereafter, his friend said. "They had heard that we were calling the cops."
During the incident, one of the students was able to take a cellphone picture of one of the attackers.
Kingston police responded within minutes, and used their canine unit to try to trace the perpetrators.
On Wednesday, police arrested two men aged 18 and 19. They have been charged with assault with a weapon and uttering threats. They appeared in court Thursday and were ordered kept in custody until their next court dates, Kingston police spokesperson Const. Steve Koopman said.
A 20-year-old man was arrested Thursday afternoon, he said, and a fourth is still being sought by the force's major crimes unit.
"These were six Queen's students who happened to be Muslim and who happened to be visible minorities," said Sikander Hashmi, an imam at the Islamic Society of Kingston who has been in touch with the men allegedly set upon.
"And they were just minding their own business, coming home from the movies, and they were, from what it appears, attacked for no reason other than that they looked differently."
Hate-based attacks 'very rare' in Kingston
Hashmi said the men are doing fine now, though they feared for their lives at the time.
He added attacks of that sort are "very rare" in the city.
"I've been here for only three years now. I haven't seen anything like this," he said.
"There have been incidents from time to time, but I think overall it's a good community and I think the vast majority of people are ready to stand together against all types of hatred and violence."
If the alleged assailants are convicted, the Criminal Code requires that a judge imposing a sentence must consider it an aggravating factor if there is evidence they were motivated by "bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin," religion or colour.