LOS ANGELES – A former public school teacher who launched a racist and anti-immigrant tirade against a Santa Clarita street vendor is being sued by a Latino civil rights group for civil assault and violating California civil rights laws.

MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) filed the lawsuit on Wednesday on behalf of Sergio Medina, 36. In September 2023, Gnel Frankian, then a Moorpark  High School teacher, approached Medina as he stood selling fruit near the parking lot of a Santa Clarita gas station. He began yelling expletives at Medina, telling him: “Get the f… out of here, you f.. illegal.”  Medina recorded the incident on his cell phone. On the video, Frankian can also be heard yelling at two gas station customers who expressed concern and came to the aid of Medina. One woman warns Medina to be careful of Frankian’s car as it begins to move closer to him as Frankian exits the gas station.

The suit, filed in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, accuses Frankian of violating California’s Tom Bane Civil Rights Act’s prohibition on interfering with an individual’s right to conduct business, as well as violating the state’s Ralph Civil Rights Act’s ban on intimidating or threatening violence on individuals of a protected class, including immigrants. The suit also alleges Frankian engaged in civil assault when he threatened to cause harm to Medina with his car.

“As irresponsible leaders increase their use of anti-Latino rhetoric and invoke, implicitly or expressly, the scurrilous and nativist ‘great replacement theory', hate incidents will increase,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel.  “The message of this lawsuit is a warning not to engage in hate-driven threats against the Latino community, or you will be held accountable.”

Medina, who is a native of Mexico, owns La Palma Fresh Fruit, a business he launched in 2019. At that time, he was granted a permit by the City of Santa Clarita to operate in that city.

“We want to send a message that unlawful discrimination will not be tolerated no matter how small or unimportant it may appear,” said Luis Lozada, a staff attorney with MALDEF. “These types of incidents have become too commonplace. To prevent future harm on Mr. Medina and others, we seek to pursue litigation against anyone that engages in overt discrimination.”

Read the complaint HERE