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Outpouring of support for Conn. Rep. Maryam Khan, assaulted outside Hartford Eid services

Maryam Khan poll standing in Windsor on the night of her special election in March 2022.

Connecticut state Rep. Maryam Khan, a Windsor Democrat who made history last year as the first Muslim elected to the state House of Representatives, was recovering Thursday after a Wednesday assault in downtown Hartford.

Khan and her family were leaving an Eid al-Adha prayer service at the XL Center when 30-year-old Andrey Desmond allegedly verbally accosted and then physically attacked her, Hartford police said in a press release.

“The suspect approached a female, later determined to be a public official, and began to make unwanted advances,” police said. “The suspect also attempted to prevent her from leaving and assaulted the female.”

Desmond was arraigned Thursday in Hartford Superior Court on charges of assault, unlawful restraint, breach of the peace and obstructing police.

Hartford Police Department Lt. Aaron Boisvert said Thursday there was not conclusive evidence suggesting Khan, who wears a hijab, was targeted specifically because of her faith or office, but that the investigation remains ongoing. Khan was evaluated by emergency medical personnel for “minor injuries,” police said.

Through a spokesperson, Khan declined comment on Thursday, sending instead a joint statement from Connecticut House Speaker Matt Ritter and House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, one of an outpouring of supportive statements from elected leaders issued in the wake of the attack.

“It is especially painful that Rep. Khan was attacked on a holy day of peace and prayer,” Ritter and Rojas said. “On a day she should be spending with her friends and family. Rep. Khan is an amazing leader and person who is committed to faith, love and service - we are sending our well-wishes and support tonight to Maryam and her family.”

Ritter told reporters Thursday he had met with Khan just 24 hours prior to her attack.

“I don’t want to get into medical stuff,” Ritter said. “I would just say that we’re all very, very worried about her. We’re all thinking of her. I’m very hopeful that the physical injuries are not going to be long-term, hopefully. … We’re just going to keep praying.”

Ritter said the State Capitol Police Department would work in tandem with the Hartford Police Department in investigating the incident, including whether or not the attack was targeted or inspired by hate, in which case the Connecticut State Police Hate Crime Unit could step in.

State Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, the first Muslim elected to either chamber of the Connecticut General Assembly, said in a statement that he was saddened by the attack.

“It is horrible to see a Muslim American woman targeted, especially on a holy day,” Anwar said. “We need to come together, now more than ever, and show support for our Muslim community.”

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz each issued statements in support of Khan.

“It’s disturbing to me that this happened on a holy day meant to be marked with peaceful prayer,” Lamont said. “The details of the assault are still unfolding but I know our law enforcement personnel will conduct a thorough investigation into what happened.”

“I am sickened by the news of Rep. Khan and her family being attacked,” Bysiewicz said. “Let me be clear: this type of hate has no home in Connecticut.”

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, who also attended the Eid service, told reporters Thursday he had been with Khan shortly before the incident.

“We are all thinking of her and hoping for her swift and full recovery in all ways,” Bronin said. “She is an incredibly strong, dedicated, committed, passionate, compassionate person, and she is in all of our thoughts right now.”

Connecticut Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff issued a joint statement, sending “our prayers to Rep. Khan for a speedy recovery and to her and her family and friends and all Muslims that they may continue to observe and celebrate their faith in peace.”

The Connecticut Legislative Black and Puerto Rican Caucus also condemned the attack in a statement, with caucus chair and state Sen. Pat Billie Miller, D-Stamford, saying she was “disgusted by the hateful and vile actions of this individual,” and vice chair and state Rep. Antonio Felipe, D-Bridgeport, saying Khan “is a kind soul who deserves the same freedom as anyone to express her religious beliefs.”

“We urge local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for this attack and to ensure the safety of the Connecticut Muslim community during the ongoing Eid al-Adha celebrations,” Farhan Memon, chairman of the Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said.

Corrected: June 30, 2023 at 12:33 PM EDT
Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the community Rep. Maryam Khan represents. She serves Windsor, South Windsor and Hartford.
Chris Polansky joined Connecticut Public in March 2023 as a general assignment and breaking news reporter based in Hartford. Previously, he’s worked at Utah Public Radio in Logan, Utah, as a general assignment reporter; Lehigh Valley Public Media in Bethlehem, Pa., as an anchor and producer for All Things Considered; and at Public Radio Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., where he both reported and hosted Morning Edition.

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