INTERVIEW: Manchester tram abuse victim says incident has derailed day to day life

In a world of people grotesquely craving celebrity status, there are others who steer refreshingly well away from it.

Take Juan Jasso for example, a 38-year-old US Army veteran of Mexican descent living in England for 18 years, who was told to “go back to Africa” last week on a Manchester tram.

The appalling video of Jasso confronting some youths and then being racially abused went viral – all for a worthy cause as the father-of-one wanted to speak up against intolerable attitudes and behaviour in society.

But the incident has brought uneasy consequences for Jasso.

“It was completely unexpected and it has completely derailed me from my normal day to day life,” he told MM over the phone after another day’s hard work.

Factor in four hours of commuting on public transport in a single day with, in his own words, “people looking at me like they recognise me but don’t know from where”, and you begin to see where the Manchester College sport lecturer is coming from.

“It’s not something I’m used to obviously and it’s not something I really quite like to be fair.

“I can’t see how real celebrities actually cope with that because it’s not something I like.”

An overwhelming number of messages of support however have helped him, in some ways, get through a strange time.

“It does put my faith back into humanity,” he said.

“I thought ‘It’s fine, it’ll blow over by Friday and I’ll be a nobody again’.

“But it’s now the week after and people are still asking me ‘Hey, are you the guy on the tram?’ And I’m like ‘Nooo’ then they say ‘Yes you are’ and I have to say ‘Ok, yeah it’s me’.”

Two men, aged 20 and 18, and a 16-year-old boy, were arrested on suspicion of affray following the incident.

The 18-year-old and the 16-year-old have been bailed until August 10. The 20-year-old man remains in custody for questioning.

Jasso hopes the wider message of why he stood up to the abuse will serve as a lesson to others.


“The message I was trying to get out was that the social learning aspect that we as a people used to have has been taken away from us,” he said.

“Nobody speaks up anymore. I think that needs to be brought back because if something is not acceptable then it needs to be stamped out, not by an individual’s parents but as a community and as a group of people.

“We need to stand up and say ‘Hey, we’re not going to accept that and be afraid’.

“However, on the flip side there are people who are acting out like these individuals and it’s either poorly placed anger or ignorance: people need to be educated.”

Jasso’s own experiences in the US military taught him that no matter who you were standing next to, whether you liked them or not, your life could be in their hands.

So forget any prejudice or bitterness.

“It’s something that is beaten out of you while you’re in training,” he said.

“They teach you that you need to depend on the person on your left and on your right on just on a day to day basis, but maybe for your life.

“So that whole racism ‘I don’t like you or the colour of your skin’ goes out the window real quick.”

The whole reason for Jasso unknowingly catapulting himself into the media glare was actually something very simple: he objected to the language being used by the social misfits with young children in close proximity that Tuesday morning.

“I wouldn’t want my little five-year-old girl to hear that sort of thing, and there were children on that tram, so I decided to say something.”

Jasso remains upbeat about getting life back to normal and hopes the experience will teach him valuable parenting lessons.

“When the time comes I could use this, I can use this definitely.

“You never have all the answers as a parent. It’s one of those things that if a kid could have come with an instruction book that would be the only book man would read.”

Image courtesy of Channel 4 via YouTube, with thanks.

Related Articles