Vigil for Marcelo Lucero

By Mariano Silva and Frankie Cook

NEW YORK--Forty people gathered on a cold, Friday evening November 21 in front of Gov. David Paterson's office in Manhattan to continue calling attention to the racist murder of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero.

Lucero, a 15-year resident of Patchogue, Long Island, was killed by a gang of seven teenagers who, in the words of the alleged ringleader, went out on the evening of November 8 looking to "find some Mexicans to fuck up."

Evidence indicates that this attack was just one of a number perpetrated by this group of racist youth, and it fits a pattern of similar attacks nationwide. Lucero's murder shockingly mirrors the killing this past summer of Mexican migrant Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, Pa., by three white youths.

The vigil in Manhattan followed a larger protest and vigil on Long Island a week ago. The ongoing focus of these mobilizations has been Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. Levy has been at the forefront of local politicians using racism and scapegoating to build political support for legislative attacks on the immigrant community.

"The politicians are trying to blame immigrants and say that they are responsible for taking jobs and ruining things," Elsa Diaz, a local immigrant rights activist, said at the vigil in Manhattan. "When the media and government continually repeat anti-immigrant rhetoric and publicity, it goes to every corner of our society, creates a climate where people start thinking negatively about immigrants, and allows hate crimes like these to happen."

Diaz's point is supported by FBI statistics. Attacks on Hispanics grew 40 percent from 2003 to 2007, the period following the huge worker and immigrant mobilizations that was followed by a vicious backlash, led by the federal government. Over the same time period, the total number of hate crime incidents reported nationwide has remained steady.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there have been "hundreds" of racist attacks since the election; many more than usual, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes. Drawing the connections between particular racist attacks and the environment of fear and hate perpetrated by the Bush administration and local politicians is a crucial task of the immigrant rights movement.

On the one side, racists have been given confidence by years of attacks led by the Department of Homeland Security and the likes of Steve Levy. On the other, many in the community of immigrants and workers feel a renewed sense of hope and optimism with these elections, and are again ready to fight for real change.

This should lead all activists to the conclusion that struggles for basic human rights and dignity are not going away with the coming of a new president, but are again coming to the fore. The activists at the vigil on a frigid New York evening promised to take with them the memory of Marcelo Lucero as they go forward to meet this challenge.