The three black women at SUNY Albany who claimed they were attacked in a racist bus incident are now facing assault charges.

The women—Asha Burwell, Alexis Briggs and Ariel Agudio—pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor assault on Monday. In their initial reports, the women alleged that a group of white people on a bus headed to campus used racial slurs and attacked them, in an incident that seemed to mirror other instances of campus racism.

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The event led to a rally on campus and waves of social media support, including from Hillary Clinton. The New York Times reports:

Surveillance videos did not support the accounts of the young women, Ms. Burwell, Alexis Briggs and Ariel Agudio. Neither did the statements of multiple fellow passengers. Rather than being victims of a hate crime, the authorities said, the women had been “the aggressors,” hitting a 19-year-old white woman on the bus.

Watch the video below.

The NYT points out how ardently conservative media has reveled in the turnaround (some are demanding Clinton to delete her tweet about the attack), as well as the disappointment among students that the false report accusation might overshadow serious cases of racism on campus.

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For students and activists in Albany and elsewhere, the stakes were greater. Many feared that the hard-won dialogue over racism on campus, the fragile moment of unity, would disappear under a wave of finger-pointing.

“People were forced to think about things that they didn’t think about, maybe, before,” said Amberly Carter, a coordinator at the university’s Multicultural Resource Center who helped organize the rally. “So do we now stop defending black women because of what happened?”

Still, there’s debate over whether the video of the incident released tells the full story about what could’ve incited the women accused of assault.

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Though State Police experts have been working to extract clearer audio from the recordings, viewers have noted that it is difficult to determine what is happening in the chaotic, noisy crowd depicted in the videos.

Naturally, some are using the reported hoax to divert a conversation about race on campus, while others are upset over the potential consequences for victims of assault.

SUNY Albany freshman Lauren Hospedales told the NYT, “It’s disappointing and saddening that somebody who seemed to be trying to help the movement would be the one to set it back.”


Contact the author at clover@jezebel.com.

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Image via WTEN screengrab