More than 1,200 Brooklyn residents and community activists assembled in Bushwick Sunday afternoon for a vigil in memory of Jose Sucuzhanay, a victim of an anti-Latino and anti-gay hate crime that occurred on Bushwick Avenue the previous weekend.
Huddled in the triangular Make the Road New York’s Grove Park (Myrtle Avenue and Grove Street), they listened to dozens of elected officials and community leaders at the hate crime vigil. Many elected officials denounced the crime while simultaneously praising the efforts of the community to seek unity and justice in Sucuzahanay’s name.
“You standing here today is an incredibly powerful statement,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. “We are not going to live in fear or go back into the closet. This isn’t the first individual lost to hate but if we continue to stand here today, I honestly believe this will be the last one we lose in this city.”
In between chants of “Justice!” and “Yes We Can” in Spanish, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, in whose district the crime occurred, urged those assembled to find empathy in the Sucuzhanany family’s pain for their loss and come together to dispel inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric.
“To every New Yorker, government official, and personalities in the media, words have meaning and they have consequences,” Velazquez said. “Treating immigrants like criminals sends the message of dehumanizing them.”
Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes brought several attorneys in his civil rights division to the vigil and stated that the Sucuzhanay brothers’ attack is the most important case his office is investigating.
“To those who committed these acts the message is very clear. You’re going to be caught. You’re going to be convicted, and you’re going to jail for the rest of your life,” said District Attorney Hynes.
The vigil was organized by Make the Road New York and its new GLOBE project, a group dedicated to empowering Bushwick’s LGBT community, with dozens of other human rights organizations from throughout the city. Local groups such as New Kings Democrats, Arts in Bushwick (AIB), the North Brooklyn Residents’ Association joined the NAACP, the New York Immigrants Coalition, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the National Congress for Puerto Rican Groups, and others who marched through the streets of Bushwick to the corner of Bushwick Avenue and Kossuth Place where they laid flowers in memory of Jose.
While there was some tension among Latino groups about working with LGBT groups prior to the vigil, any issues appeared to dissolve at the vigil as all community leaders promised to work in solidarity to eliminate hate crimes against any community in Brooklyn.
“A lot of the Latino leaders are saying they support the LGBT community, which I hadn’t heard before,” Karina Claudio, an MRNY organizer and director of the GLOBE project, said. “We support them and they support us as well because ultimately this is a human rights issue and we all have to work together.”
While police continue to investigate the attack against the two brothers, community leaders will be planning other events and demonstrations against hate crime. Claudio said MRNY will be working with the New York Immigrants Coalition on the Dignity for All Schools Act, which gives school principals authority to report hate crimes in school. Other community representatives were planning marches on January 10 to raise public awareness about immigration issues.
The Bushwick and Williamsburg communities are still shaken about the vicious attack with emotions at the vigil still very raw. For Laura Braslow, Operations Director of AIB and a member of Community Board 4, those feelings were tempered by the presence of so many residents at the demonstration.
“We’re really excited to see all people from different walks of life to come out in solidarity for this horrible crime,” Braslow said.