A project of the Center for Community Change

marcelo lucero

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, NIOT.org 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.

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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.

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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.

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