A Black security guard who says she punched a white Trump supporter in self-defense during the contentious evening on Washington, D.C., streets the night before the Capitol riots said she has been fired from her security job and is now facing criminal charges. A GoFundMe campaign has raised just over $100,000, surpassing its $85,000 goal, to assist her with living and legal expenses.
Washington, D.C., resident Ashanti Smith, 28, said she is the woman in a viral video that shows a uniformed African-American female punching a white woman, who has been identified as Therese Duke, and leaving her with a bloody nose the day before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
In her fundraising campaign’s description, Smith said the video footage of her encounter with demonstrators while at Washington’s Black Lives Matter Plaza doesn’t show how rioters harassed her before she punched Duke. Smith had been on break from her job at a nearby building when she encountered the crowd Duke was in.
“I honestly feared for my life. The video makes me look like I am the aggressor, but it does not show what happened prior to my defending myself,” Smith wrote on GoFundMe. “People shoved me, tried to take my phone and keys, yelled racial epithets at me, and tried to remove my mask. I asked them to social distance and stay out of my personal space due to COVID 19. They refused, and I was afraid of being hurt and harmed. After being assaulted, I defended myself.”
Smith added she was “now facing criminal charges along with being relieved from my employment pending an investigation,” adding the job loss placed her “in a hardship situation at the moment.”
“I am asking for support and help with funds for my legal fees and to maintain the essential things that I need to survive during this time. Any amount of help is truly appreciated,” Smith concluded.
The incident allegedly began when protesters began questioning Smith while she was on a break from her security job in downtown D.C., according to NBC Washington.
On conservative media outlets, Duke is made to look like an innocent victim. When a man asks why she’s bleeding and who hit her, Duke replies “A Black girl punched me in the face … that Black girl.” When she’s asked if anyone held Smith responsible, Duke replied, “Of course not. They protected her.”
Duke neglected to mention she instigated the incident by reaching in and trying to grab Smith’s phone from her hand. As far as many on social media are concerned, Smith’s self-defense claim is valid.
“Nothing but love for Griselda Blanco [Smith’s name on social media], she did absolutely right defending herself and f–k her job for firing her,” wrote Twitter user @JVLewis77.
“I can’t believe Ashanti Smith was maced and locked up for defending herself and the aggressor Theresa Duke was allowed to go home. Someone needs to fix this,” added user @lcanonly_mb who tagged the FBI, Washington Metropolitan Police, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, and Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser.
Duke’s 18-year-old daughter, Helena Duke, agreed with Smith’s supporters, calling her mother out on Twitter for her hypocrisy.
“Hi mom remember the time you told me I shouldn’t go to BLM protests bc they could get violent…this you?” Helena Duke tweeted before following it up with a tweet of herself and her mother in the same photo to prove their relation.
Helena added she was “the liberal lesbian of the family who has been kicked out multiple times for her views and for going to BLM protests” before identifying her mom as well as her aunt Annie Lorenz and uncle Richard Lorenz as also being among the pro-Trump throng on that street.
In a tweet on Jan. 11, Helena shared another video of the incident from a different angle stating, “the harassment is blatantly obvious in this video.” She asked if anyone could connect her with Smith.
“What drives me up the wall….is to see how EVERYONE saw your mom throw a punch or whatever that was, the woman defends herself and yet that dragged her to the police like she’s the one who incited the violence. That’s what’s fking wrong with white folks these days…ENTITLEMENT,” user @MperialBeatz responded on one of Helena’s tweets.
Prior to creating her GoFundMe campaign, Smith made similar claims of self-defense, saying she “never planned to go viral.”
“But yes that is in me in the video. They constantly harassed me and all 3 jumped me. Me hitting her was a reflex. I asked them constantly to stop touching me, following me, and bothering me, they kept surrounding me trying to steal my keys out of my pocket and trying to take my phone as seen in the video. Yes I lost my job. Yes I’m good. I’ll respond to everyone once I get my phones out of property,” Smith wrote on Twitter.
Upon learning who Therese Duke was, social media users began tagging her employer, UMass Memorial Health Care, which now says Duke has been fired from her job as a caregiver.
On Monday, Smith elaborated on her version of events during an interview with NBC Washington.
“They didn’t have masks,” Smith said. “They proceed to try to take my mask off of my face. I was on Instagram live just to protect myself and also show everyone what was going on. … Three gentlemen, they grabbed me, but at the time, one of them hit, me and then they dragged me to the police line.”
She also thanked all of her supporters in a Facebook post.
“Truly appreciate everyone support during this hardship moment. Words can’t explain how much this means right now. Thanxxx & God Bless,” Smith wrote.