A Latino advocacy group organized a march through the streets of Staten Island, New York, Wednesday night to protest a string of attacks on Mexican nationals.
Approximately 300 members of Make the Road New York, an alliance of non-profit organizations and area residents, gathered at the intersection where the most recent attack on a Mexican national took place.
The victim of that attack, Alejandro Galindo, was in attendance.
"I hope that the violence will end, that when we are walking to work we don’t have to be scared because we’re not criminals. If the violence stopped, we will feel very happy because we will feel like human beings walking down the street," he said.
The attacks – 10 since April – are being investigated as "anti-Mexican assault cases," said Inspector Michael Osgood, head of the New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force. The victims have all been Mexican males, police said.
In all but one case, the assailants were described as African-American, police Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said Wednesday. The victims typically have been beaten while assailants yelled racial slurs at them, he said.
Although the incidents vary, weapons – including blunt objects, baseball bats and, in one case, a Razor scooter – were used, police said. The assaults have resulted in multiple hospitalizations, authorities said. Browne said some victims were knocked unconscious. Five of the 10 were robbed, police said.
In the most recent attack, on Saturday, a 32-year-old man was struck in the chest with a baseball bat, knocking him to the ground, said police Sgt. Carlos Nieves. His assailants then kicked him in the face, Nieves said. The man was taken to a hospital, where he received 12 stitches across the left side of his face.
A total of eight people have been arrested in connection with three of the incidents, Browne said. In two of the three, the perpetrators are believed to be the same, a man and a woman, he said. The suspects range in age from 14 through the early 20s.
"We have increased patrols in the area," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters on Tuesday. "We’re meeting with community people. We’re meeting with our own officers internally, making sure we’re doing everything we can do to prevent attacks such as this.
"We’re concerned about it. We’re not going to tolerate it. We’re taking proactive measures to see to it that if it does happen, we’re going to make an arrest very quickly."
Some community leaders have expressed doubt that whether the incidents were truly motivated by race. In two cases where arrests have been made, Staten Island grand juries have declined to indict the suspects on hate crime charges.
The victims might be undocumented and could be seen as competitors for scarce jobs, said Edward Josey, president of the Staten Island NAACP. "When the economy is bad and when jobs disappear, people get edgy," he said.
Meanwhile, Fernando Mateo, president of Hispanics Across America, said the incidents may be robberies, not hate crimes.
"Some of these cases are not racially motivated," he said. "They’re motivated by people wanting to rob other people. When you’re robbing someone, you might say slur words."