Revolution #151, December 28, 2008

Anger and Outrage Over Anti-Immigrant Violence in New York

The Murder of José Sucuzhañay

It was outrage heaped on top of outrage. Just a few weeks ago Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue, Long Island was killed by an anti-immigrant mob. Now came a new incident again targeting Ecuadorian immigrants, this time in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

On December 7, two brothers, José and Rommel Sucuzhañay, were coming home from a social event at a neighborhood church. It was special reunion for them. José came to the U.S. nine years ago and after a long separation his brother was visiting from Ecuador. They were walking arm-in-arm, expressing their pleasure in seeing one another after such a long time apart. Suddenly a group of youths see them, jump out of a SUV, yelling anti-immigrant and anti-gay insults and attack them. Rommel was able to escape, but José was hit in the head with a bottle and then with an aluminum baseball bat. José lay in critical condition at Elmhurst Hospital Center. His brothers kept him on life support until their parents were granted a visa and could arrive from Ecuador. “I want only to spend my son’s last moments with him,” Sucuzhañay’s mother, Julia Quintana, told a TV reporter in Ecuador. But José died Friday night before his mother got to see him.

Bushwick is a multinational, very poor and proletarian community, with a large Ecuadorian population, along with many from the Dominican Republic, the English speaking Caribbean, Poland and dozens of other countries living or working there. It borders on the large, predominantly Black community of Bedford-Stuyvesant. There are many small factories and sweatshops there.

This incident has sparked widespread outrage, among immigrants, among gay people and more broadly. On Sunday, December 14, there was a sizable and angry march in Bushwick to the site where José and Rommel Sucuzhañay had been attacked. A broad coalition of forces including Make the Road New York, Ecuadorian organizations, gay and lesbian rights activists, the NAACP and the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights mobilized. Over 500 people came out to protest. Many were Ecuadorians from Bushwick area, but also from the large Ecuadorian community in nearby Queens and some from the battle in Patchogue, Long Island, and included at least 20 Black people. There have been reports that at least some of the assailants were Black youth. One older Black man told Revolution that if this is the case, it was really wrong — that victims of racist hate should not be victimizing other victims of racist hate.

The main focus of the protest was opposing the whole wave of anti-immigrant violence. A number of the speakers and marchers also drew important connections between the attacks on immigrants and attacks directed against gay people.

A number of local elected officials came, but euphoria about Obama was very low-keyed in this crowd. One speaker called for an immigrants rights march before Obama’s inauguration to “put Obama on notice” that his stand on immigrants was “unacceptable”. A number of speakers and many in the crowd raised parallels and lessons between the attacks on immigrants and gay people now and the rise of fascism in Germany.

No one, as of today, has been charged with this crime. Police are going around asking for people to work with them, but many at this march saw the police as part of the problem confronting the people. Altagracia Mayí whose son Manny was killed by a mob of racist whites in Corona, Queens, 17 years ago, and has been long active in the battle against police brutality spoke, along with Margarita Rosario, whose son and nephew were killed by the police in the Bronx.



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