It was the hate crime that launched 1,000 ally memes: a young Muslim woman, Yasmin Seweid, harassed on the New York City subway by three white men shouting about Donald Trump and how she was probably a terrorist. According to Seweid's initial story, the men got up in her face, yanked at and ripped her bag, and tried to tear off her hijab—all while a car full of other train passengers failed to intervene.
"It breaks my heart that so many individuals chose to be bystanders while watching me get harassed verbally and physically by these disgusting pigs," Seweid wrote on Facebook. "Trump America is real and I witnessed it first hand last night! What a traumatizing night."
Soon social media was filling up with admonitions about the negligent, heartless bystanders and cute, illustrated memes about how white women can save their brown counterparts from subway harassment. But perhaps the people of New York City aren't as bad folks feared: the incident never actually took place. Seweid admitted as much to police this week, telling them she made up the story to avoid getting in trouble with her strict parents for coming home late.
On Wednesday, the New York Police Department (NYPD)—who had initially opened a hate crime investigation into the incident—arrested Seweid on misdemeanor charges of filing a false report and obstructing government administration.
Her story is one of several high-profile "hate crimes" reported throughout November and December that turned out to have been fabricated, exaggerated, or misinterpreted. In a number of instances, messages initially interpreted as anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, or racist intimidation attempts were revealed to be the work of liberal-leaning individuals attempting to comment on Trump's presidency.