The Lessons of Lucero: When Politicians Spew Hatred Immigrants Die

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The 8th Anniversary of the killing of Marcelo Lucero is November 8. Tuesday. Election Day. Lucero was killed in an attack by a group of young men who had gone out hunting Latino immigrants on most weekends as a form of sport and in response to the demonization of brown people by Suffolk politicians. For five years before the killing, Suffolk’s County Executive, Steve Levy, had depicted Latinos as a dangerous class of criminals overrunning the county. Is it any wonder that teenagers would seek to counter the threat with deadly violence?

Words have power, and the words of Suffolk’s anti-immigrant politicians sanctioned violence against immigrants.  As the father of one of the attackers pointed out, his son was reading about how despised immigrants were every day in Newsday. When politicians try to harvest votes from hatred they inspire violence against immigrants.

The young men were also subject to online radicalization through the internet. Jeff Conroy, whose knife delivered the final stroke killing Marcelo Lucero, had been visiting White Supremacist websites before the killing. He had a swastika and a Nazi thunderbolt tattooed on his body by a friend. A young man whose antipathy towards immigrants was stirred by a politician, according to his father, was finding kindred spirits and a ready-made ideology of hate on-line.

The politicians’ words identified a target, Latinos, and told the young men that their target was reviled by the broader white community. The police did their part by not investigating attacks on Latinos by young white men. They too had heard the politicians’ voices. The message of hate was reinforced on-line by what we would now call Alt-Right web sites.

Marcelo Lucero was attacked just four days after the first non-white president was elected. Young whites, afraid that the power of their race was in decline, struck out in their war to maintain control of their world. Marcelo  Lucero, who was on edge because of the attacks inflicted on others in Patchogue’s Ecuadoran community, may have understood that he was to be the next victim in the Crusade against immigrants when he saw seven teens jump out of their car.

Marcelo decided that he would not just be a victim, he decided to go down fighting. After he was killed, the immigrants of Suffolk, who had been driven underground by the odium cast on them by Steve Levy and the violence inflicted on them by hate groups, organized, became citizens and voters and assumed a place of power in Suffolk’s political world. They too, had decided to fight back.


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