The despicable assault on Ecuadoran immigrant José Osvaldo Sucozhañay and his brother Romel last Sunday was swiftly condemned – as it should – by the Ecuadoran community and by New Yorkers of every race and national origin.
"We have had tremendous support from many different groups," said Walter Sinche, executive director of Alianza Ecuatoriana Internacional, a community group.
In an effort to send a message of unity and racial harmony in the aftermath of the vicious attack, a coalition of mostly Latino and African-American community, religious and labor groups will hold a **vigil and march Sunday in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
"We are all united in our resolve to fight hate," said Sinche, an organizer of the event.
As has been widely reported, three African-American thugs yelling anti-Latino and anti-gay slogans repeatedly beat José, 31, a successful Bushwick real estate agent and landlord, with an aluminum baseball bat. While his brother Romel, 38, managed to escape unharmed, José was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital Center where he was declared brain-dead on Tuesday. He died there Saturday.
The cowardly attack was an assault on our city’s proud tradition of welcoming diverse groups.
To hear friends of José Sucozhañay speak of him is to immediately realize the senselessness of this crime and how great a loss his death is, not only for his family, but for all New Yorkers.
This is part of an e-mail sent to us by Karleen, one of his tenants.
"José Osvaldo Sucozhañay was a humble and intelligent man. I remember when I lost my job and he was willing to pay for my schooling to get my real estate license so I could work at his office, because at that time I was in need. That was the nicest thing a landlord would do for me. I pray for his immediate and extended family. God bless you, José."
Yet, horrible as it was, the attack on the Sucozhañay brothers is only one more in a rapidly growing list of crimes against immigrants, especially Latinos.
Racism and prejudice appear to be thriving in the current irrational climate of hate as the immigration debate grinds on.
One month ago, Marcelo Lucero, also an Ecuadoran immigrant, was beaten and stabbed to death in Patchogue, L.I., by a mob of mostly white teenage thugs who wanted "to hunt a Mexican."
FBI statistics show an alarming increase in the number of hate crimes across the nation. Latinos, the numbers say, have become the racists’ target of choice in the last four years.
Since 2003, hate crimes against Hispanics have increased by a shocking 40%. According to the FBI, almost 67% of crimes motivated by ethnic or national origin are committed against Latinos.
"We have to come together as one community against hate," said David Galarza, of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, a workers’ group affiliated with the AFL-CIO that will be part of Sunday’s march.
"We need to present a united front against hate. Crimes like these against José and Romel must not happen again."
Indeed, they must not. And that is why Mayor Bloomberg, City Council President Christine Quinn and the rest of our elected officials must clearly and forcefully speak out. They need to let the racists and criminals know that hate crimes will not be tolerated in our city.
**Make the Road New York organized the protest against the recent violent attacks on Latino immigrants.