Washington, DC – The Washington Post reports in a late-breaking story that incidents of bias-related crimes against Latino/a people and LGBT people are rising sharply on seemingly parallel tracks, according to FBI findings. In a June 16 article entitled “Hate Crimes Rise as Immigration Debate Heats Up,” Spencer Hsu, reporter for WaPo, writes that officials are concerned about the abrupt rise in violent crimes against both groups: “The FBI reported in October that the number of [total] hate crime incidents dropped in 2007 by about 1 percent, to 7,624. But violence against Latinos and gay people bucked the trend. The number of hate crimes directed at gay men and lesbians increased about 6 percent, from 1,195 to 1,265, the FBI reported.” It should be noted that the actual rise in hate crimes against LGBT people is actually in excess of 28% in the last year, according to the more comprehensive statistics reported by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. Shrill voices in the media and organization of xenophobic hate groups on the internet are contributing to this alarming trend. Most recently, as Mariela Rosario writes for http://www.latina.com, Minutemen stand accused of the murder of a Latino immigrant family. In a May 30th home invasion attack just now being shared widely in the national media, three members of the anti-immigrant group Minutemen American Defense (MAD) allegedly burst into the Arivaca, AZ house of Raul Junior Flores, 29, and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia, and shot them dead. Flores’ wife using a shotgun returned fire, repelling the attackers, and wounding one of them. Shawna Forde, 41, Jason Eugene Bush, 34, and Albert Robert Glaxiola, 42, stand accused of the crime. The stated mission of the Minutemen American Defense is summed up in Forde’s own words, “We will expose and report what we know and find, we will recruit the serious and train the revolutionist, time for words have passed the time for bravery and conviction are now.” The Pima County (AZ) Sheriff’s Department is still investigating. The murder of Flores and his young daughter has sparked outrage among Latino/a rights groups. As The Unfinished Lives Project has previously reported in numerous stories over several months, the tragic
victimization of Latino and Latina folk, gay, bi, transgender and straight often converges in a terrible way. José Sucuzhañay, and his brother, Romel, Ecuadorans visiting the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, NY were brutally assaulted on the night of December 7, 2008. Hakim Scott, 25, and Keith Phoenix, 28, beat the Sucuzhañay brothers with a beer bottle and an aluminum ball bat shouting slurs at them for their ethnicity and their perceived sexual orientation. The savage attack was apparently motivated by a toxic combined hatred of Latino immigrants and gay people. The brothers, huddled together against the cold, were walking arm-in-arm from a party. Ironically, José, who died from his wounds, and his brother Romel, are both heterosexual. José leaves behind a 10-year-old son, Brian, and a 5-year-old daughter, Joanna, who is living with Down Syndrome. As an attorney for the Sucuzhañay family told the New York Post, “The family has suffered tremendously. It was a brutal murder.” Scott and Phoenix have been indicted for second-degree murder as a hate crime by the Brooklyn District Attorney, and await trial. Often set at odds by “common wisdom” and the media, the Latino/a immigrant community and the LGBT community share a truly common need for unity in the face of irrational hatred of “the other.” The Ecuadoran media covered the crime widely, putting an important face on anti-LGBT hate crimes in the United States.
Onondaga County, NY – Lateisha Green, 22, an African American M-to-F transwoman, was shot to death in November 2008 with a .22 calibre rifle in Syracuse, NY. Her brother, Mark Cannon, 18, who was also shot, managed to drive their car home. Mark told reporters, “I was like oh my lord! This is not true!. This is not true, and Moses told me that he loved me on the way home.” Ms. Green, née Moses Cannon, died of what authorities called a hate crime, because the motive for the shooting allegedly was that she and her brother were “gay.” Dwight DeLee was arrested and charged. Subsequently, his attorney entered a plea of not guilty, and challenged the hate crime charge as unconstitutional, citing that the charge is too vague and general. The judge in the case entertained the motion on behalf of the defense, but made the determination that the charge will go forward as entered. If Mr. DeLee is found guilty, it will be the first time in Onondaga County history that the hate crime statute will have been successfully applied in a murder case. Based on evidence the state says it has, Ms. Green was selected for this fatal attack because of her sexual orientation. Her father, Albert Cannon, spoke to the press about his grief and anger: “I’m hurt. Angry. Upset. Am I mad at the kid? Yes. Mostly, I’m upset with society. How do we let our kids get this angry this young? This was hatred.” The trial is scheduled for mid-July of this year.
Memphis, TN – For the fifth time since 2006, a transgender woman of color has been shot in the streets of Memphis, Tennessee on May 27. Authorities report that Kelvin Denton, an African American transitioning from male to female, was shot in the neck and face by an assailant who did not like the way she presented her gender identity. Ms. Denton is in critical condition as of this writing. After being shot, Ms. Denton managed to run from the scene of the shooting at the Peppertree Apartments, until finally collapsing near the Whitehaven Community Center. Police arrested Terron Taylor for the crime, who said that he felt he had been “misled” about the gender identity of his victim. Such early testimony indicates that the defendant will be using some version of the trans-panic defense to justify his violent attack on Ms. Denton. Taylor is being held on $500,000 bond in Shelby County on two charges: attempted second degree murder and using a firearm to commit a felony. The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition is urging the swift and aggressive prosecution of Taylor for the crime. Tiffany Berry was shot and killed in Memphis in 2006, as well as Ebony Whitaker and Duanna Johnson in 2008. Leeneshia Edwards was also shot in 2008, but survived. The ferocity of these attacks calls for renewed action on the part of the Metro Memphis authorities to put a stop to the violence against transgender people, especially trans people of color.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) released statistics on May 28 showing a massive spike in 2008 hate crimes in the Volunteer State, up 38% over 2007. While the largest number of bias-related crimes was against African Americans (a number actually slightly down from 2007), the second largest percentage of violent attacks was against members of the sexual minority–11.8% of the total for 2008. Reported acts of hate violence against LGBT people in Tennessee increased just a whisker shy of 13% over the previous year. The entire report in .pdf format may be viewed by going to the TBI website. The largest category of hate crimes in the 2008 report was bias crimes of unknown motivation. The numbers of anti-LGBT hate crimes almost certainly will rise when more of these crimes yield evidence about the class or group against whom they were perpetrated. The Unfinished Lives Project has previously highlighted the steep rise in attacks on transgender women of color in Memphis. Representative of these brutal crimes was the killing of Duanna Johnson of Memphis, who was murdered in November 2008 after lodging a $1.3 million dollar lawsuit against the city for a savage beating police gave her which was caught on a jailhouse camera earlier in the year.