The brother of slain Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero condemned Donald Trump’s fundraiser in Patchogue Thursday just blocks from where his brother was killed in a vicious hate crime nearly eight years ago, calling it a “slap in the face” to his community.
Standing several yards from where his brother was fatally stabbed in 2008, a quivering and teary-eyed Joselo Lucero said his brother came to the United States seeking a better life. But instead of living out his dream, his life was taken by Joseph Conroy, a knife-wielding 17-year-old, who is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for manslaughter as a hate crime. Six others were convicted of lesser crimes.
“This is [not] easy for me,” a visibly emotional Joselo told about 100 people who came out for a vigil in memory of his brother. “This is a terrible day. How do you think I’m feeling with this? My mom died because of consequences with that. I don’t want something like this to ever happen. I hope—I hope this village take this message right, because for the last seven years I’ve tried to build this village, I tried to build this community, I tried to be a bridge in between my community and between the immigrants and between the local people.”
“But what [do] I have?” an anguished Joselo cried out, prompting tears from the crowd. “I have a slap in my face…Donald Trump came four blocks away. He uses the rhetoric against immigrants, he uses hate speech, he uses the power to humiliate women. Why do we allow him to do that?”
Lucero’s vigil attracted a diverse group of supporters, including several members of local clergy. The gathering was in response to Trump’s fundraiser with the Suffolk County Republican Committee at The Emporium, a local music venue. The event sparked outrage from members of the community because of Trump’s view on immigration.
There were multiple events throughout the day protesting Trump’s presence, including a demonstration about 50 yards away from The Emporium, where people chanted “Dump Trump,” “We say no to hate,” and “Long Island, united, will never be defeated!” A nearby venue also held a “Make America LOVE Again” concert that doubled as a fundraiser for a charity dedicated to Lucero.
This was Trump’s second LI appearance in as many weeks ahead of next Tuesday’s crucial presidential primary. Trump is the front-runner for the GOP nomination but he may not end up with enough votes to clinch the nomination outright, which is why the New York primary is so pivotal. Multiple polls show Trump with an insurmountable lead in New York.
There was little mention of the upcoming primary at Lucero’s vigil, however.
Holding a sign that blared “Stand Against Racism,” Francisco Fuentes, an artist from Central Islip, said people in the community have serious concerns with Trump’s anti-immigrant message.
“It’s very important for the whole Spanish community to let them know they’re against any message of hate and racism,” Fuentes said through a translator.
Retired Rev. Al Ramirez credited Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri and others for helping the community heal after Lucero’s slaying. But he speculated that giving Trump a platform in Patchogue could derail hard-earned progress.
“There’s been a lot of progress made,” Ramirez told the Press. “You have to give credit to Paul Pontieri; I think he’s a made tremendous effort to create unity, greater understanding, bring people together…clearly, even the police department, I believe, has taken positive steps, [but] they still have a lot of work to do.”
“If they have taken, perhaps, eight steps forward,” he added, “what has just happened, has taken them seven steps back. They’re back in the beginning.”
Speaking at a microphone, Father Ron Richardson, a retired Roman Catholic priest, reminded everyone why they had come out on this sun-splashed day.
“His life was taken from him solely because he was an immigrant,” Richardson told the crowd congregating on Railroad Avenue.
Richardson lamented the divisiveness ripping through the US today, saying his hope for a more “supportive society” has been replaced with “a hardening of our collective hearts.”
Rabbi Steven Moss of B’nai’ Israel Reform Temple in Oakdale and chair of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission encouraged those gathered to stand united.
“That piece of Earth, that concrete to my right is holy,” he said of the spot where Lucero was killed.
“Say no to violence, no to hate speech,” he added, before leading the crowd into a rendition of “We Shall Overcome.”
A more spirited rally took place down the street from The Emporium with protesters carrying signs comparing Trump to Hitler and raising banners that barked “Dump Trump.”
Unlike the demonstration in Bethpage last week, Thursday’s protest did not spark confrontations between those rallying against Trump and those supportive of his cause.
Standing along a police barricade, Cynthia Roethgen of Lindenhurst said she fears Trump’s message about immigrants could inflame tension.
“Sadly, I believe that we’ve had racism dampen down in this country, it never really went away, and he’s just ignited it again,” Roethgen said. “I don’t think that’s what we need.”
Roethgen said she has recently discussed Trump’s presidential run with two people from Germany who told her they are frightened by what they hear.
“This is reaching the world,” she said, “and he’s scaring a lot of people.”
Beth Rosato, a lifelong resident of Patchogue, said the community had come a long way since Lucero’s death only to have to relive it once again thanks to Trump.
“I think it’s either extremely insensitive or its extremely manipulative, and neither one of those things is right,” she said. “It’s a slap in the face to Patchogue. All the work everyone’s done to heal from the wounds and to have him come here, it’s not right.”
Before he gave his impassioned speech to scores of supporters, Joselo said he was hoping to leave people with a positive message.
As he walked through the parking lot, various people expressed sorrow for his loss, shook his hand and gave him a hug.
“It doesn’t matter where he came from,” he told the crowd of supporters. “He was my brother, he was my life, he was my father, he was my friend.”