A year ago this Sunday, in the heady days following the election of President Barack Obama, a hate crime took place in Long Island that initially went mostly unnoticed: a gang of teenagers attacked and killed Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero, as part of what was later revealed to be a frequent activity for the youngsters “beaner jumping,” a slang term for attacking Latinos.
Thursday, there was big news in the case when one of the teenagers, Nicholas Hausch, pleaded guilty to gang assault and hate crime charges as part of deal in which he will testify against the other defendants. Meanwhile, relatives and friends of Lucero are preparing to remember him this Saturday with a vigil near the Patchogue train station, where he died. And Long Island Wins, a pro-immigration website, launched a blogging campaign asking other sites to post stories to “Remember Marcelo” and other victims of hate crimes.
The Lucero crime was only one in a series of attacks against Latinos in different states. (Shortly thereafter another Ecuadorian immigrant was assaulted and died in Brooklyn.)
The Vivir Latino blog noted in a post on the anniversary that Lucero’s death “seemed to be the start of a new wave of violence against those marked as immigrant/Latino/Mexican.”
The crime also sparked an investigation by the federal Justice Department which, according to The Associated Press, “has focused particularly on police response” to hate crimes on Long Island.
It also attracted nationwide attention to Long Island immigrant communities and how they live.
Last September, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a report titled “Climate of Fear” saying that, while some local authorities fanned the flames of xenophobia, law enforcement agencies did little when immigrants came forward to report attacks against them.
Local officials, county executive Steve Levy in particular, have not toned down their rethoric, said Long Island Wins‘ online editor Ted Hesson in an e-mail to FI2W.
“From what we’ve seen, Levy has looked at the Lucero murder as more of a public relations problem than a genuine crisis, with frequent insensitive comments about immigrants that have led us to question whether he’s acting in good faith,” Hesson wrote.
“Despite the serious problems cited in the (SPLC) report, Levy has yet to show us that he takes the findings seriously.”
Hesson said a recent press release from Levy’s office “cited statistics that he said showed that he was ‘very popular’ with Latino voters. But the poll subset that Levy referenced only consisted of 37 people, leading the pollster who conducted the poll to comment that using statistics in that way was ‘inappropriate.‘”
In remembrance of Marcelo Lucero, Long Island Wins put together a video series called “Patchogue: One Year Later,” with interviews of community figures about the consequences the attack has had. The site is also asking readers to support comprehensive immigration reform through an online petition.