Nearly four months after two men allegedly
beat an Ecuadorian immigrant to death on a Bushwick street corner because
they mistakenly thought he was gay, his brothers were among those who
took part in a hate crime forum on Saturday in Brooklyn.
Diego Sucuzhañay spoke to the dozens
of people who took part in the forum at Make
the Road New York as his brothers
Romel and Pedro stood silently at his side.
"The loss of José is a great
loss for our family and a huge loss for the Bushwick community,"
Diego Sucuzhañay added his brothers
murder has been especially difficult for his 10-year-old nephew Brian
and five-year-old niece Jhona, who has Down syndrome.
Keith Phoenix and Hakim Scott allegedly
used anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs as they allegedly attacked José
Sucuzhañay with a baseball bat and bottles as he and his brother Romel
walked arm and arm after a party. New York Police Department officers
arrested Phoenix and Scott in late February, and the two men pled not
guilty at their arraignment last month.
Diego Sucuzhañay declined to answer
a question EDGE asked about whether Phoenix and Scott attacked his brother
because they thought he was gay. He added, however, his family remains
grateful local residents continue to rally behind his family.
"We must all get together to stop
hate crimes," Diego Sucuzhañay said.
Phoenix and Scott allegedly killed
José Sucuzhañay a month after a group of Long Island teenagers beat
Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero to death in Patchogue. Both murders
sparked widespread outrage among immigrant and Latino organizations.
"We need to start with the street
corners where violence is happening."
Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez was
among the hundreds of people who marched through Bushwick in the days
after José Sucuzhañays death. And City Council Speaker Christine
Quinn handed out wanted posters at the Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues subway
station alongside Councilwoman Diana Reyna [D-Bushwick] and NYPD officers.
Ejeris Dixon of the Audre Lorde Project
stressed she feels local efforts are the best way to stop hate crimes.
"We need to start with the street
corners where violence is happening," she said.
Father Louis Braxton, Jr., operates
Carmens Place, a shelter for homeless LGBT teenagers in Astoria,
Queens. Four teens allegedly attacked Braxton outside the facility last
July after he tried to protect his residents. Braxton stressed he feels
the passage of the Dignity in All Schools Act, the Gender Expression
Non-Discrimination Act and other LGBT-specific legislation before Albany
lawmakers is another way to curb these incidents.
"In that moment of madness and
chaos, I wanted to grab those kids who were attacking us and strangle
them, but the truth is violence not the answer," he said.
Some activists continue to question
whether additional legislation actually deters those who perpetrate
hate crimes, but Maritza Dávila of the North Bushwick Residents Association
added she feels collaborative efforts with the NYPD is key.
Dávila and her organization have worked
with businesses along Wyckoff Avenue, one of Bushwicks main thoroughfares
and shopping areas, to create a registry with the local precinct to
stop what she described as almost weekly attacks. Dávila told EDGE
the NYPD recently arrested two people, but she maintains the attacks
"It takes people to say no more,"
Diego Sucuzhañay readily agreed.
"The community is responding by
getting together," he said. "We have to get together to say
were not tolerating these attacks."