Muslim woman attacked in suspected hate crime on NYC subway had Palestinian flag broken

Following a viral video that captures an attack against a Muslim woman on a New York City subway earlier this month, a 33-year-old man has been arrested and charged with several hate crimes. 

Days after the clip made the rounds, showing a man who appears to strike a young woman and destroy her Palestinian flag, police arrested Greg Kutzin, a Manhattan-based finance director, on Nov. 20. The woman told NBC News that police in the subway station initially dismissed her claims and that it took the video going viral for an arrest to be made.

The 23-year-old, who is Yemeni American and Muslim, said she was on her way to a pro-Palestinian rally in Bryant Park on Nov. 17 when the man began to glare at her. He called her a “terrorist,” snatched and broke the flag she was carrying, and hit her in the chest, according to both her interview and a police statement. She said this led her to take out her phone and start recording. 

In the video, the man can be seen holding her flag and swiping at her as she yelled back and cried out for help. Fellow passengers can be heard gasping as he appears to lunge forward and she stumbles for a moment.

She continued to record as the two deboarded at Times Square-42nd Street, and she filmed him throwing her broken flag to the ground. In the police report, she alleged he threw it onto the subway tracks.

The young woman, who said she moved to the U.S. from Yemen when she was 15, asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.

“I always felt safe, especially in New York City,” she said. “I was always aware of crazy people, but not that people were going to target me because of my beliefs.” 

Kutzin has been charged with six hate crimes including assault, robbery, grand larceny, petit larceny, criminal mischief and harassment, police said. He pleaded not guilty to all counts and was released on his own recognizance. 

His lawyer did not return a call from NBC News. 

When she first got off the train, the woman said she flagged down a police officer who dismissed her story, telling her the video didn’t prove anything. He questioned if she really wanted to make a police report and deal with the hassle, so she didn’t file one at the time. 

It was only after the video went viral that she was encouraged by viewers and friends to make an official report. A day after she visited the precinct and gave her statement to police, Kutzin was arrested, she said. 

“What if I didn’t have a video? What if it didn’t go viral? He would have never even got arrested,” she said. 

The New York Police Department did not respond to questions about the initial officer’s handling of the incident. 

Shared by civil rights organization Yemeni Alliance Committee, the clip of the incident has gained over 1 million views on X and TikTok. The woman who filmed her attack said it’s the first time she’s ever experienced Islamophobia with physical violence. Standing at 4 feet, 10 inches tall, she was scared when the man approached her, and she said when no one on the train stood up for her, she decided to take it into her own hands with the video.

israel palestinian gaza conflict hamas flag issue nyc
Greg Kutzin.@YAC_USfuelsWars/X

“I don’t want to think that this is ever going to happen again, but if something ever do — because of what’s happening now with the increase in hate crimes — I’m always going to initially record,” she said. 

Kutzin’s employer, financial services franchise StoneX Group, put out a statement on social media saying it was aware of what happened, but it was not clear if the company was investigating the incident or had taken any action.

“We are aware of the social media discussions regarding a StoneX employee. This unfortunate incident occurred outside of work and has been turned over to the proper authorities,” the tweet said. 

StoneX did not respond to a request for comment. 

The young woman who was attacked said she’s deeply concerned by the rise in Islamophobia since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. More than anything, she wants full accountability for attackers and justice for other victims. 

“I have a lot of friends telling me, ‘Wow, you were brave,’” she said. “I thank God I was brave.”

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