Civil Rights Groups Condemn Recent Rash of Hate Crimes

Fatal Beating of Long Island Latino Man Should be a "Wake Up Call for America"

November 24, 2008

WASHINGTON, DC – The brutal murder of Marcelo Lucero, a Suffolk County, Long Island man of Ecuadoran descent, brought seven national civil rights organizations together today to denounce the recent wave of brutal hate crimes against communities of color.

Representatives from the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the National Urban League, the NAACP and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) decried the recent spike in hate crimes both during and after the election.

“In the wake of an election that sends a message to the world about freedom, it seems incongruous to raise the specter of hate in America,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR. “Hate did not win the election, but it has certainly reared its head in local communities across the country.”

“It is deeply disturbing to see this surge in hate crimes at a time when we should be celebrating coming together as a country and looking to the future,” said Karen Narasaki, President and Executive Director of AAJC. “Encouraged as we are to see many communities hopeful that we are headed towards an age of greater understanding, we cannot ignore the wave of hate crimes that has occurred in the wake of this historic election.”

The group cited FBI statistics that show hate crimes against Latinos and Asian Americans rising steadily over the past four years and a Southern Poverty Law Center report that details hundreds of incidents of hate crimes, vandalism, and threats committed since Election Day. This includes the election-night assault of Alie Kamara on Staten Island by two teenagers who shouted racial epithets and “Obama!” as they beat him.

“We believe that the Justice Department has to become more aggressive in prosecuting hate crimes,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, one of the nation's historic civil rights organizations. “As a country, we’ve come a long way, but there is still more change needed.”

“At a time when we as a nation are celebrating our demonstrated diversity as millions of Americans of every race, color, ethnicity, economic status, religion, gender, and place of national origin went to the polls in record numbers to vote for and elect Barack Obama president of the United States, there are unfortunately those who are still living in the past filled hatred, fear and division,” said Hilary Shelton, Director NAACP Washington Bureau.

“Hate crimes such as these must be investigated and prosecuted fully at the local and federal levels,” stated John Trasviña, MALDEF President and General Counsel.

The civil rights groups faulted a “climate of hate” surrounding the immigration debate of recent years and the national election which has been fostered over the airwaves and echoed in political discourse.

“For two years we have urged politicians and members of the media to show some restraint in perpetuating the damaging rhetoric that demonizes our communities,” said Murguía. “Suffolk County mirrors the experience of many communities where hate, fostered on a national scale, has found a new home.”

“Certainly, President-elect Obama’s election speaks volumes about how far we’ve come as a nation; but, make no mistake, it signifies hope, not a final victory over prejudice and racial hostility, ” said Wade Henderson, President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. “Certainly, in a nation of over 300 million people, there will always be a fearful few who can only find self-worth when they disparage and denigrate some group of people they see as different from themselves. We can’t legislate the heart and mind, but we can ensure that this segment is prevented from turning thought into action.”

“Words have consequences, and hateful words have hateful consequences. Mr. Lucero's death is a direct consequence of the anger and hate spurred on by media outlets that mischaracterize all Latinos and the institutions that serve them as a threat to our country,” said Murguía.

"There is a direct connection between the tenor of the political debate and the daily lives of immigrants in our communities. It is no accident that, as the immigration debate has demonized immigrants as "invaders" who poison our communities with disease and criminality, haters have taken matters into their own hands and hate crimes against Latinos are on the rise for the fourth consecutive," said Michael Lieberman, Washington Counsel, Anti-Defamation League.

These seven organizations are committed to working together to monitor incidents of hate crimes and hate rhetoric, to urge Congress to pass the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act and the media to cease resorting to bias and bigotry, and to increase tolerance and understanding among all communities.

To learn more about the code words of hate and what your community can do to combat hate speech, visit

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund