Tag Archives: luis ramirez

A bit of justice for Luis Ramirez

This month has brought a bit of justice to the case of Luis Ramirez, the man beaten to death by three teenage boys last summer. Earlier this year, all three of the teenage boys were found not guilty of murder and acquitted of ethnic intimidation charges. All in spite of witness testimony of the beating that was rife with racial slurs and obvious racial motivations. They were found guilty of simple assault. Not surprisingly, this verdict was delivered by an all-white jury.

After this miscarriage of justice, groups like MALDEF petitioned the Department of Justice to intervene and file hate crimes charges in the case and in the last month there has been a bit of justice served in Shenandoah.

Five people, including three police officers, have been indicted in the fatal race-related beating of a Latino man in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

Two indictments charge the five with federal hate crime charges, as well as obstruction of justice and conspiracy, authorities said in a written statement. A federal grand jury handed up the indictments last week, and they were unsealed Tuesday.

Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky are charged with a hate crime for beating Luis Ramirez in July 2008 while shouting racial epithets at him, according to the department. Ramirez died two days later.

“Following the beating, Donchak, Piekarsky and others, including members of the Shenandoah Police Department, participated in a scheme to obstruct the investigation of the fatal assault,” the Justice Department said. As a result, Donchak faces three additional counts of conspiring to obstruct justice and related offenses, officials said.

While this is huge news in terms of setting precedent for the prosecutions of hate crimes, I still feel this is too little too late and even a band-aid on what has grown to be a gaping sore on the face of small-town America.

Yes hate crime charges should be filed, yes I consider it justice to finally get the truth out about the cover-up that sought to keep the hometown heroes from harm. But at the core of this, there is the continued dehumanization of people of color and of immigrants. There is the hate that runs so deep that three high school kids could muster the sheer blind rage to beat a man to death with their bare hands and a kick to the head. And there was complicity. There were adults who knew this rage existed and knew the ugly truth but thought these boys deserved special treatment, that they were somehow above the law.

In the fight against this hate, the indictments are a start, but we have a long way to go.

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?

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.”
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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!

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Justice for Luis Ramirez: Press Conference in DC Tomorrow

stop_hate12

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.

Migrant Decapitated in Russia, Hits close to Home

The New York Times reported Saturday that a migrant worker from Tajikistan was murdered, and decapitated, by a group of Russian ultranationalists.

The group that took responsibility for the killing issued a statement:

…in an e-mail statement sent to two human rights organizations that monitor hate crimes in Russia. The statement included a photograph of the victim’s severed head.

The statement said the killing was “a demonstration of their resolve to fight against the non-Russian occupation, and a warning to officials that the same will happen to them if they do not stop the flow of immigration,” said Galina V. Kozhevnikova, a deputy director at the Sova Center, one of the organizations that received the statement.

Some might see this story of sheer inhumane brutality as something that only happens in other countries, committed by nameless foreigners and extremists. But you don’t need to look any further than Shenandoah, Pennsylvania or Long Island or Brooklyn, NY to know that these things are occurring right here at home. The fight for migrant rights is universal and we need to start by demanding those rights in our own country.

Civil Rights Groups Condemn Recent Hate Crimes

I have had the unfortunate task of covering the brutal murders of both Marcelo Lucero and Luis Ramirez on this blog. I have also posted several times on the spike in hate crimes against Latinos that is being witnessed in the United States. The hate speech and the vitriolic rhetoric surrounding the issue of immigration has created a violent and dangerous environment for all immigrants, and specifically Latinos.

lucero5Yesterday, national organizations gathered to denounce the recent rash of Hate Crimes and to call for more agressive investigation and prosection of these crimes at both the local and the federal levels.

“We believe that the Justice Department has to become more aggressive in prosecuting hate crimes,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, one of the nation’s historic civil rights organizations. “As a country, we’ve come a long way, but there is still more change needed.”

“Hate crimes such as these must be investigated and prosecuted fully at the local and federal levels,” stated John Trasviña, MALDEF President and General Counsel.

Additionally, the organizations connected the dots between hate speech and the violence inflicted on immigrants. It is time to call for an end to the dehumanization of immigrants that allows unthinkable stop_hate12violence and hatred to enter into the mainstream.

“There is a direct connection between the tenor of the political debate and the daily lives of immigrants in our communities. It is no accident that, as the immigration debate has demonized immigrants as “invaders” who poison our communities with disease and criminality, haters have taken matters into their own hands and hate crimes against Latinos are on the rise for the fourth consecutive,” said Michael Lieberman, Washington Counsel, Anti-Defamation League.

While the groups cited Barack Obama’s election as marker for how far we’ve come as a nation, they also emphasize that is a starting point, from which to build on for a more hopeful and less hateful future.

For more on what you can do, check out www.wecanstopthehate.org. And to see video from the press conference – click here.

As most feel Hope, Hate still lingers

This past week an Ecuadorian immigrant named Marcello Lucero was murdered on Long Island. His attackers were seven local high school boys. Does this story line sound familiar? Remember Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, PA? Remember how he was killed? By a group of hateful high school students.

They told police they wanted to beat up someone who looked Hispanic.

That was the motive, police said, that a mob of seven young men had in mind when they attacked a Patchogue man, who ended up being stabbed to death minutes before midnight Saturday, Suffolk police said.

“These individuals told detectives that they were looking to beat someone of Latino heritage,” said Det. Lt Jack Fitzpatrick, commander of the homicide squad, adding that the victim, Marcello Lucero, 37, is of Ecuadorian descent.

Fitzpatrick said the seven suspects drove around Patchogue searching for victims and found Lucero and another Ecuadorian man.

 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? What did Lucero do to merit this extreme violence?

Some people will chalk this up to boys being boys, but as Duke at The Sanctuary said: HATE DOES NOT HAPPEN IN A VACUUM. Marcello Lucero’s murder is a reminder that while immigrants have made their voices heard politically during this past election, there is still much to be done.

Check out the roundup of coverage of Lucero’s murder after the jump. I will be sure to keep you updated with any new developments.

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UPDATE: Bail set for Teens Who Killed Immigrant in Shenandoah, PA

Two of the four teens accused in the murder of Luis Ramirez in July have been released on bail.

From the PA newspaper the Reading Eagle:

Brandon Piekarsky, 16, and Colin Walsh, 17, of Shenandoah, both of whom had been in prison since their arrests July 25, were freed following the hearing before Senior Judge William Baldwin.

They are charged with criminal homicide — which could include third-degree murder, voluntary or involuntary manslaughter — along with ethnic intimidation and related offenses in the July 12 beating of Luis E. Ramirez, 24.

The district attorney’s office did not object to bail being set, but asked for several conditions, which Baldwin granted.

Piekarsky and Walsh must obey 7 p.m. curfews, avoid using drugs or alcohol and stay away from others involved in the case.

Sounds like fair treatment for people involved in a brutal murder. Right?