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Rally and public speaking at Suffolk County Legislature: Marcelo Lucero and Immigration Issues

KW: Today, Tuesay, December 2nd, I attended a morning vigil and rally to honor the life of Marcelo Lucero and to discuss ways that the government could have done and could do things better in regards to tolerance in Suffolk County. After the rally, many immigration activists spoke in the public portion, with various tributes and suggestions. I can’t believe I had no regular camera or video camera. Though, there is already some coverage at News12.

Random thoughts (will try to polish and/or write more later):

At the morning ceremony, everyone had set up a memorial tribute to Marcelo Lucero with his photo, and some artwork created for him after his death. An artist from Mother Jones has created a portrait of Marcelo, as well as an artist from the South who made a painting of Marcelo and people behind him with candles. At a planning meeting, we had discussed how to make sure people felt the impact of a life lost, and that Marcelo was a valued person who was gone. So, a clergy person opened up the vigil. There were flowers put in front of his picture. And, I played a song on the flute at the end of the vigil — “Ah Poor Bird.”

Many people spoke about the background that led to Marcelo’s death, including government officials using rhetoric against immigrants, a lack of reporting and dealing with other hate crimes, etc. Several people from the Jewish community spoke, including someone from the ADL, saying that their community had experienced similar problems, and they empathize and support the Hispanic community.

A class of 4th graders attended the vigil for most of the time (it was cold, the speeches were long, they went inside.) The class also attended the meeting inside, and people were very happy to have children there as a symbol of the future, and to realize that this was a community issue.

An award was also given to the Brentwood Soccer team. It was noted that they were first place state champions, and rated first in the nation, and many of them were Hispanic. An example of the value of all people.

Of all the dozens of speakers supporting immigrants and asking the legislators to be more responsible in their rhetoric and bill-making, only two people spoke against immigrants. Yet, in a Newsday article covering the story, those two are basically given the last word. Also, the nastiness and polarity of the message of the immigrant bashers – basically saying that they should not be here – makes their argument seem much more important than it is. That is unfortunate.

I read part of a press release from the Green Party of Suffolk County, noting that we tried to run against Steve Levy in 2007, but were thrwarted by the unfair, two party system. A legistlator actually came up to me later and commented in a way that I think she realized something about the problems with Levy and the problem with having Levy, or anyone, run on all th party lines.

I also read part of the song “Deportee.” I noted that it was published in 1961, and even then people knew it was unkind to label people with the word “deportee” and the word “illegal” that the song mentioned. So, legislators had no excuse to use that word, or act is if they don’t know it is offensive.

Some suggestions and possible directions:

-Many people asked the legislators to stop using rhetoric against immigrants.
-Many people implored the legislature to just stop making any laws about immigration. The idea is that immigration is a federal issue, so Suffolk County should just stay out of it. And, keep ICE and immigration enforcement away from our community, where the threat of federal punishment confuses the issue of police protecting everyone who needs help.
-Someone said there should be a law that police must respect all immigrants.
-People noted that it is already policy/law that police cannot ask people their immigration status. But, that is violated, most notably when Suffolk Police have participated with federal agents in ICE raids on immigrant homes.
-Many people noted that Suffolk Police have to get a handle on hate crime reports. They need to make sure we have better and more accurate numbers. We have to make sure that people feel safe to report hate crimes that happen to them.
-Suggestion that there be a community mediation program where people could turn to for conflict resolution between communities
-Someone noted that the phone number used here to report hate crimes does not have a bilingual option. (That is pretty shocking.)
-There is a hate crime task force. But, evidently, there are only a discrete, few people who could call upon them to help local police. I believe it is the Town Supervisor of the Police Chief. A suggestion is to give other people the right to call in the hate crime task force
-Creating programs in schools to educate students about diversity and tolerance
-Having community forums to discuss diversity and tolerance. (And, someone suggested there should be one set up in all 10 Suffolk towns, and that Steve Levy should go to all of them.)
-Minerva from an organization called Ola spoke near the end. She pointed out that calls for unity and forgiveness were too early. First, people have to really acknowledge the problems. The people who commited a crime need the proper consequence. Then, there will be the ability to unify and move on.
-It is an important issue that around the country, when hate crimes happen, people often identify with the white perpertators so much that justice is not served. That is how and why these crimes are condoned and happen again. The immigrant activists are standing firm in their belief that the perpetrators must face stiff consequences.
-Charlotte Koons –activist, poet and Peace Crone– read a poem remind people that our country was founded on the genocide of Native Americans and on slavery. And, that these patterns are still in our bones. She implored us to have a vision of a better America, and not forget or repeat the America of the past.

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