A project of the Center for Community Change

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.

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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?

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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…

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