Category Archives: hate crimes

Not in Our Town: Fighting Hate (new media style)

This week, a teenager is on trial in Long Island for the murder of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant who was targeted by a group of teenage boys who went looking for Latinos to assault  in November, 2008.

I wrote a lot about the Marcelo Lucero murder that year. It came only a few months after another murder in Shenandoah, PA where Luis Ramirez was beaten to death by a group of local high school boys. (Yes, there is a pattern here).

As we hope for some justice in the murder of Marcelo Lucero, a new online community is being launched to help fight hate in communities across the country.

Not in Our Town (NIOT) is a project of the Working Group, which “tells stories for and about people who make change, and connects them to others who can expand their influence.”

With a focus on race, diversity and the battle against intolerance, is a tool for people fighting prejudice and hate-based violence targeting people for their race, ethnicity, faith or sexual orientation.

The new site will:

“…allow communities and individuals around the country to connect, share ideas and model best practices for building safe, inclusive communities.

You should check out their page with information on how to get connected and start making a difference. While you’re at it, stop by and leave messages of support for Joselo Lucero while he sits through his own brother’s murder trial in search of justice.

Remembering Marcelo Lucero

One year ago, seven teenage boys in Suffolk County, Long Island, NY were trying to find a way to spend their Saturday night. Sounds like a typical American teenage night of boredom, but it would end in senseless hate, violence and death. The seven boys set out to do some “beaner jumping”. Yes, you read that right. These boys set out with the intention of finding a Latino to beat.

They found Marcelo Lucero, a 37 year old Ecuadorian immigrant who had been living in the United States for 16 years. They beat and stabbed him to death.

I remember writing about this a year ago. I was fairly new to the pro-migrant blogosphere and was still reeling from the murder of Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, PA.

Its hard to fully wrap my head around this idea. These boys were searching for a person of Hispanic heritage – ANY person of hispanic heritage. Where does this intense hatred come from?

Though after writing that initial post I soon learned about Steve Levy, the Suffolk county executive who had consistently been pushing a hardline anti-immigrant agenda in the area, and I started connecting the dots.

Then in September, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a report that found immigrants in Suffolk County had been living in a constant climate of fear for their safety and their lives.

Mamita Mala at VivirLatino really makes the connection in her post remembering Marcelo Lucero:

I do not draw a line separated the violence unleashed on our communities based on whether it is committed by private individuals or individuals action on behalf of the local, state or federal government. One allows and promotes the other. The continuing criminalization of immigrant communities dehumanizes and sends a message to private citizens that immigrants/Latinos/Mexicans are all criminal anyway, not worthy of protection under the law or justice.

And today, while we remember Marcelo Lucero, we must also continue to fight the dehumanization and criminalization that Mamita Mala points to in the above lines.

In a timely development of this story, yesterday one of Marcelo Lucero’s attackers plead guilty in court:

Nicholas Hausch, 18, pleaded guilty to four counts to settle a nine-count indictment, including conspiracy, gang assault, assault as a hate crime and attempted assault as a hate crime in the Nov. 8, 2008, killing of Marcelo Lucero.

Hausch will testify against the six other boys facing jail time for the brutal murder. Hopefully justice will be served, but what will that justice mean for Marcelo Lucero’s family? For the Suffolk county community? For Latinos facing hate and xenophobia daily? For the character of our country as a whole?

A court of law will not make this right.

I will close this post with something I wrote a year ago – where I quoted a moving NY Times editorial about Marcelo Lucero’s murder.

Deadly violence represents the worst fear that immigrants deal with every day, but it is not the only one. It must be every leader’s task to move beyond easy outrage and take on the difficult job of understanding and defending a community so vulnerable to sudden outbreaks of hostility and terror.

Not only every leader should take on this task, but every American. Period.

On Saturday, there will be a candlelight vigil in memory of Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue, NY. I hope those of you who live in New York can attend – I wish I could be there in person.

Please visit the Long Island Wins website to sign the petition real immigration solutions to avoid more tragedies like the one in Patchogue.

Latinos in Suffolk County live in fear

Suffolk County rallies around the murder of Marcelo Lucero, calling for an end to the hate and violence.

Suffolk County rallies around the murder of Marcelo Lucero, calling for an end to the hate and violence.

If you’ve read this blog consistently, you will remember the murder of Marcelo Lucero in Suffolk County, NY earlier this year. Lucero was brutally murdered by a group of young boys who were out for a night of “beaner-jumping” – to give you an idea of the culture of hate that rules in this area.

Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a report that, as la Mamita Mala at VivirLatino says, tell us what residents of Suffolk County, NY already know (and live on a daily basis). The report shows that Latinos in Suffolk County, NY live in a climate of fear – fear for their safety and their lives. To read the full report, click here.

Steve Levy, the Suffolk County executive, is infamous for the many anti-immigrant initiatives and county policies he’s signed into law. Recently, he has been labeled the “enabler-in-chief of the anti-immigrant violence” in Suffolk. After the murder of Marcelo Lucero, the community rallied to show up to prayer vigils and lift up the story to educate the American public on the hate still preying on the vulnerable

However… Levy continued with his anti-immigrant rhetoric, stating that the incident was receiving too much coverage and that it should only be a “one-day” story.

Thankfully, two days later, Levy issued a mea culpa apologizing for his statements. However, this is too little, too late for a community that is being torn apart by hate.

From the SPLC press release:

“The murder of Marcelo Lucero was by no means an isolated hate crime but rather part of a wider pat­tern of violent attacks against Latinos in Suffolk County,” said Mark Potok, director of the SPLC Intel­ligence Project, which produced the report. “For 10 years, political leaders and anti-immigration activists in Suffolk County have demonized Latino immigrants, and the police have appeared indifferent to their plight. We should not be surprised that Latinos are regularly targeted for violence and harassment.”

The report includes numerous first-hand accounts of immigrants being punched and kicked by random attackers, beaten with baseball bats or robbed at knifepoint. They say they are regularly taunted, spit upon and pelted with apples, full soda cans, beer bottles and other projectiles.

The anti-immigrant rhetoric in Suffolk County dates back at a least a decade to the founding of Sachem Quality of Life (SQL), a militant anti-immigrant group that spread bogus data claiming Latino immigrants were responsible for sexual assaults, burglaries and other serious crimes. The group stoked anti-immi­grant sentiment, repeatedly referring to Latino immigrants as “terrorists” and labeling anyone advocating immigrant rights as traitors.

I definitely appreciate the work that SPLC has done on this issue, and for lifting up this story to the national level, but I wonder if there is something more than a teachable moment that can be latched onto here. What does it take to eradicate hate like this?

In  previous post, I quoted the NY Times article titled “A Death in Patchogue”, and I feel the need to quote it again.

Deadly violence represents the worst fear that immigrants deal with every day, but it is not the only one. It must be every leader’s task to move beyond easy outrage and take on the difficult job of understanding and defending a community so vulnerable to sudden outbreaks of hostility and terror.

Not only every leader should take on this task, but every American. Period.

Sally Kohn: The Bloody Truth Behind Anti-immigrant Rhetoric

Check out this great post by my colleague Sally Kohn – originally up at The Huffington Post. As always, Sally provides a sharp analysis of the current anti-immigrant climate and its connection to violence.

briseniaA week after a white supremacist attacked the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, and on the day that three teenagers are being sentenced in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, for brutally beating and killing a Mexican immigrant, it’s time we confront the fact that behind violently anti-immigrant and supremacist rhetoric is a real urge and a real encouragement for actual violence.

On May 30, 2009, a group of armed men and women killed 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father in Arivaca, AZ. The vigilantes were Minutemen, members of a “civilian defense corps” that polices the US-Mexico border for undocumented immigrants. When Jason Bush, 34, Shawna Forde, 41, and Albert Gaxiola, 42, allegedly busted down the front door of the Flores home and murdered Raul Junior Flores and his daughter and seriously injured Flores’ wife, the armed gang was supposedly looking for drugs and cash to fund their anti-immigrant organization.

Arizona police allege
Shawna Forde was the ringleader. Shawna Forde was the Executive Director of Minuteman American Defense (M.A.D.) and a spokesperson for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), often touted as a “mainstream” voice opposing immigration. But if Forde was indeed involved, the bloody acts in Arivaca reveal the true hatred and contempt behind anti-immigrant organizations in our country. Many well-meaning, average Americans who have understandable concerns about our economy and how they’re going to support their families have been convinced that anti-immigrant organizations are on their side and feel their pain. But the reality is, organizations like the Minutemen and FAIR are only co-opting our economic insecurity (an insecurity that’s actually shared by immigrants and citizens alike) to mask their real agenda, motivated purely by hatred for those who are different.

It was the same thing in Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler started by talking about how Jews were threatening the German economy and should all be expelled from the country. And then he killed six million.

Are we really so naïve as a nation to think that the anti-immigrant fervor, from Lou Dobbs to the Minutemen, is anything about our economy or our well-being or our way of life? After all, our nation was built by immigrants, our strongest economic times in recent years have been driven by high rates of immigration and even now, our economy actively lures low-wage worker from across the border to get back on firm footing. Do we really think we’d be reacting as negatively if the immigrants coming here had light skin and spoke French?

Jason Bush, one of the other Minutemen charged in the Arizona murder, was charged in another slaying in 1997 in Washington State. He allegedly bragged to a police informant about “killing a Mexican.” The man Bush killed was a 29-year-old homeless man who had been sleeping under a blanket near a parking lot when Bush stabbed him several times with a knife.

Regarding the Arizona murders, the Minutemen American Defense group has placed the following statement on its website:

MAD does not endorse or condone any events that are outside of the normal boundaries of any normal private citizen who is concerned about the current conditions of the opened border condition and we do work totally within the boundaries and with the total cooperation and knowledge of all appropriate Law enforcement agencies in our areas of operation.

While revealing how ironic it is that groups like M.A.D. criticize new immigrants for not speaking English, the statement does anything but condemn violence against immigrants. It’s worth noting here that Forde and her gang allegedly entered the Flores home wearing law enforcement attire. Groups like the Minutemen are pretending to uphold laws that they flagrantly violate. Who are the real law breakers? Immigrants who come to the United States without legal permission but every single economic invitation, to work for companies that actively recruit them in order to support their desperate families back home? Or the vigilantes who prowl our southern border with assault rifles and camouflage and raid innocent families’ homes and slaughter 9-year-old children?

“This was a planned home invasion where the plan was to kill all the people inside this trailer so there would be no witnesses,” said Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Pima County, Arizona. “To just kill a 9-year-old girl because she might be a potential witness to me is just one of the most despicable acts that I have heard of.”

I actually feel badly for Shawna Forde. She was fed a load of crap about how her economic troubles and sense that the 21st century was passing her by were the fault not of something vague like the public education system or American trade policies or Reaganomics but something specific, something dark-skinned, something that fit perfectly into the us-versus-them scary story that readily embraces misplaced blame: immigrants. Never mind that we were all in the same boat, sinking fast, immigrants and citizens alike — and never mind that shaking her fist at foreigners and patrolling the US-Mexico border was distracting Shawna from taking action that would have brought about real change, like making our economy more democratic, changing tax policy to help working families, easing the burden of health care costs and gas. No, Shawna believed the hate mongerers on CNN and the internet and stuck to her guns. Literally. But if the allegations against her are true, Shawna can really only be blamed for taking to extremes the garbage that so many Americans believe is true, the lies we swallow to make the bigger pill of America’s real, shared problems seemingly dissolve but in truth get stuck in our collective throat as we’re looking the other way.

The alleged acts of Shawna Forde and her gang are inhumane. Our outdated immigration policies are inhumane. We can and must reform our immigration laws to make America work better for all of us, immigrants and citizens alike. That is the only pro-America side of this debate. Everything else must be unmasked for what it is — a façade for an anti-immigrant bloodbath. On which side will you stand?

Anti-immigration Activists Arrested for Murder

briseniaOn May 30th, a group of armed men and one woman shot and killed Brisenia Flores and her father in Arivaca, AZ. They kicked in the door to the family’s home and murdered the 9-year old and her father Raul Flores, injuring Brisenia’s mother. Though media has reported that the motivation behind the crime “is not clear”, what is glaringly clear is the hate behind it.

Jason Bush, Shawna Forde, and Albert Gaxiola have all been charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Each of the accused belongs to the MinuteMen American Defense, a group of vigilante anti-immigrants who have dehumanized immigrants (and Latinos) to the point that they have no trouble shooting a 9-year old in cold blood.

Even more damning (though not shocking) is the video that has surfaced which links Shawna Forde, the ringleader of the operation, to the anti-immigration hate group FAIR. Check out the video below, to see Shawna Forde speaking at a Town Hall in Yakima, Washington as an “activist” for FAIR. (h/t to America’s Voice for breaking this.)

I’ve written extensively on FAIR – classified as a Hate Group by the Southern Poverty Law Center – which claims to be a mainstream “think tank” in favor of  “immigration reform”, though it has been made apparent that their agenda is far more extreme. Hopefully this type of exposure will help mainstream media outlets apply stricter rules about who quote as “reliable sources” on immigration.

While some might see this as an isolated and tragic incident, those of us who track the broader narrative of hate and violence in this country know that Brisenia’s family is only the latest in a long, bloody history of anti-immigrant fervor that has seeped from the extreme fringes into the mainstream of America.

Jill Garvey, from Imagine 2050 writes:

This is part of a larger increase in violence by individuals associated with racist groups; a direct result of the acceptance of racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric used in mainstream media.

Jill also does a great job  of connecting the dots between groups like the MinuteMen and groups like NumbersUSA, who are quoted on the Minutemen’s website and mainstream media personalities like Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs (also cited on Minutemen’s webpage). While most anti-immigrant groups will do their best to distance themselves from Shawna Forde and her gang of vigilante child-killers, the truth is, they are all connected.

I have to say, I’ve seen a lot about this heinous crime on the blogosphere today and have yet to see anybody tie it into the recent Holocaust shootings here in DC. While, obviously, the contexts and the players are different, I think that both point to examples of how extremist views work to make certain groups less than human, and therefore, disposable. The Department of Homeland Security warned about this recently, but too many anti’s on the Right wanted to use the moment to bash Janet Napolitano and the report was swept under the rug.

It is now our work to make sure the Brisenia and her father, and the countless others who have died as a result of ignorance, bigotry and misguided fear, have not suffered in vain. We must continue to speak out about how hate speech, of any kind, feeds the fuel for crimes like these. We must continue to deconstruct the connection between brown, criminal, illegal and immigrant. And, most importantly, we must continue to raise up the stories that the mainstream media refuses to cover – in order to show the American public exactly what we are fighting against – hate.

Below is a roundup of coverage on the murder of Brisenia and Raul Flores. As always, the pro-migrant blogosphere is fighting the good fight.

The Sanctuary – Flores por Brisenia

Imagine 2050 – MinuteMen Members Murder Nine Year old and Father

Immigration Talk with a Mexican American – Brisenia Flores: The Beautiful Latina Child the Minutemen Murdered!

VivirLatino – Brisenia Flores: Nuestra Hija

Una Gran Tristeza – A round up at Citizen Orange

Crooks and Liars – When the Minutemen go “tactical” for Dollars

Who really killed Luis Ramirez?

Luis Ramirez died two days after being brutally beaten by three teenagers in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.

Luis Ramirez died two days after being brutally beaten by three teenagers in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania

Like I promised, here is a more about the dehumanization of the Other and why it must stop.

This piece was written by Gabe Gonzalez, a veteran community organizers and the director of the Campaign for Community Values at the Center for Community Change.

A few days ago two teens, accused in the fatal beating of Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania were acquitted of all serious charges by an all white jury. Shortly after Ramirez was brutally murdered, his grieving fiancé had a premonition about the outcome of justice in the case saying, “I know they’re going to try to make him look like nothing, and try to justify what the kids did, even though there’s no way they could justify this. I know I’m not gonna get the justice I deserve, 10-1 these kids are going to get probation or a slap on the hand. Because he’s an illegal Mexican they don’t care, right away he’s less important.”

When I heard the verdict, I was taken back to a conversation from a couple of years ago when I stood aghast with all Americans as pictures rolled out from Abu Ghraib. I remember vividly talking with a friend of mine about it. He shook his head and said what we were all thinking, “Why did they do this?” It hit me hard, because I knew the answer. I shook my head with him and said quietly, “Because they could.”
Continue reading

The Luis Ramirez Murder: A Logical Step in the Process of Establishing a Subhuman Class

we are human
The systematic dehumanization of undocumented immigrants is something that I wish I had more time to write about in this space. In the face of the rising number of hate groups and hate crimes, I think that the American public MUST take a long hard look at the language we use to describe the Other. By painting undocumented immigrants as less than human, we are complicit in the violence (and even murder) committed against them. If someone is less than human, you can treat them as such, right?
More on this later, but in the mean time, I urge everyone to read this new post up at the Sanctuary. You know that its important when the Sanctuary editors all come together to write a long and thoughtful post on a recent news item. In this case, its the injustice witnessed in the case of Luis Ramirez, whose brutal murderers (white high school kids) were recently acquitted of the crime by an all-white jury.
Originally posted at the Sanctuary:

Three things immediately shock the conscious soul upon learning about the murder of Luis Ramirez. The simple manner in which he died is the first of those.

Ramirez, a father of three, was beaten to death in the streets of Pennsylvania by as many as seven young men who were at the end of a night of drinking. The motive? Judging by the slurs heaped upon him along with the many blows to his body: apparently nothing more than being out at night while Mexican. The teens who ganged up on Ramirez came upon him walking with a young woman, reportedly his girlfriend’s sister. Obviously bringing threat, they asked him what he was doing out at that time of day. Then they set upon him. In the end it was a final hard kick to the skull which left the 25-year-old father convulsing on the concrete with fatal brain damage.

The post is lengthy, but KEEP READING!

Continue reading

Justice for Luis Ramirez: Press Conference in DC Tomorrow


WHAT: News Conference on Hate Crimes

WHEN: Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. EST

WHERE: Russell Park, in front of the Russell Senate Office Building, on the corner

of Constitution Ave. & Delaware Ave. NE in Washington, D.C.

Tomorrow a coalition of civil rights leaders and elected officials will hold a news conference to call for justice in the case of the murder of Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.

The coalition will call on the United States Department of Justice to pursue a broad and comprehensive investigation of the beating and brutal murder of 25 year old, father of two, Luis Ramirez. The Department of Justice should consider bringing federal hate crimes charges against those responsible for Ramirez’s death. Ramirez lost his life in July 2008, after he was knocked unconscious and kicked in the head by a group of Shenandoah teenagers who yelled racial epithets before and during the brutal beating.

A Schuylkill County Court jury acquitted Brandon Piekarsky, 17, of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation and Derrick Donchak, 19, of aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation a few weeks ago. Both were convicted of simple assault.

The coalition will also urge the Senate for swift passage of the “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009,” following a successful vote by the U.S. House of Representatives recently. The bill strengthens existing federal hate crime laws by authorizing the Department of Justice to assist local authorities in investigating and prosecuting certain bias-motivated crimes. The bill would also provide authority for the federal government to prosecute some violent bias-motivated crimes directed against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.

Jury Finds Teens Not Guilty in the Brutal Death of Luis Ramirez

Last summer, three teens in Shenandoah, PA, attacked and beat a Mexican immigrant to death.  After shouting increasingly violent threats and racial slurs at Luis Ramirez, the three teens proceeded to beat him so badly that he was left convulsing on the ground and foaming at the mouth. He died two days later in the hospital.  I followed the story closely.  I just read through some of my older posts and thought this line was worth repeating:

America will look back in shame on events like this.

As though right on cue, this past Monday, the three teens responsible for the violent and hateful death of Luis Ramirez were found not guilty of murder and were acquitted of ethnic intimidation charges. They were found guilty of simple assault. Not surprisingly, this verdict was delivered by an all-white jury. As Dave Neiwert at Alternet wrote:

the weight of evidence against the accused was so powerful that it’s clear the all-white jury — like similar juries in the South during the Civil Rights struggle — was not going to convict two young white men of murdering a Mexican. Even if, as Friedman [in the video above] says, “the only reason he is dead is because he was Mexican.”

If you, like me, are outraged by verdict, please sign this petition from MALDEF, asking the Department of Justice to thoroughly investigate the case, to ensure justice is served.

Also, be sure to read the full piece by Neiwert, which gets the heart of the issue – bigotry and racism that is going unchecked and unpunished.

Man Beaten for Not Speaking English

Stories like this are the reason I advocate for immigrants’ rights. We have to combat the hate that fear of the other  inspires in people. Immigrant rights are Human Rights.