A project of the Center for Community Change

hate crimes

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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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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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…

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