Brooklyn, NY – Keith Phoenix, alleged murderer of Ecuadoran immigrant José Sucuzhañay, is in a Brooklyn court again after a mistrial. Phoenix and his co-attacker, Hakim Scott, took offense at José and his brother, Romel, as they walked arm-in-arm on a freezing night in December 2008. Hurling epithets at the Ecuadorans for being Hispanic and “gay” (in fact, neither of the brothers are gay), Scott assaulted José with a beer bottle, and Phoenix allegedly delivered the coup de grace with an aluminum baseball bat. Scott received a sentence in the Spring for manslaughter, escaping hate crimes charges. When a juror in Phoenix’s first trial refused to continue, the judge in Brooklyn Supreme Court declared a mistrial. There seems little doubt that Phoenix is guilty. A toll booth camera caught the pair of assailants smiling and laughing as they fled the scene of the crime. Witnesses stand ready to testify again that the bat attack was so brutal and bloody the taxi driver witness had to avert his eyes from the scene. And Phoenix himself seems to be doing all he can to get himself convicted, too. In a confession taken by a detective at Phoenix’s arrest recorded the defendant as asking, “So I killed somebody. Does that make me a bad person?” Well, yes, as a matter of fact, it does, in the opinion of the Unfinished Lives Project Team. Critics of how the courts in Brooklyn have been handling this case look to the Phoenix trial as a way of redressing what appears to be a severe disrespect for Latin American immigrants and LGBT people. The main defense Phoenix is mounting is that too much alcohol led him to do what he did. He has yet to show any remorse for his actions. Keith’s attorney has suggested that his client feared that the victim might have a weapon in his waistband, and that José was the one who started the fight. When José M. Arrufat Gracia, the lawyer for the Sucuzhañay family heard these allegations, he said, “We definitely believe those allegations are insulting to the victims, alleging that the perpetrators were acting in self-defense.” Perhaps a prison term of decades will assist him to develop the self-restraint he could not exercize two years ago when he bludgeoned an innocent man to death, and the remorse for a hate crime he seems incapable of understanding today.
Topeka, Kansas – Steve Drain, a member of Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church, is proud of his 7-year-old son Bo. Young Bo has learned to hate on a grand scale: Gays, “hundred and hundreds of Jews,” all citizens of the United States, are bound for eternal hellfire. ABC News 20/20 reports that from the cradle, children of the notorious, gay-hating Topeka church are taught that anyone who violates their interpretation of the Bible is bound for everlasting punishment. Gay people are particularly singled out in Bo’s young mind, thanks to the indoctrination he has received from his father, mother, and teachers at WBC. Bo sincerely believes gays by the millions are headed for damnation: “You get destroyed and you get put in hell. Hell is like a burning place where it can never be stopped, burning, and it can burn millions of people every day,” he said. Because the government allows diversity, and for the most part does not punish lesbians, transgender people, and gays, Bo has been taught that all Americans are de facto “fag enablers.” His father, Steve, was so impressed by the message of Phelps back in 2000 when he came to film a story on the church, he returned to Florida, packed up his family, and moved them to Topeka to join the 70-member congregation. He and his wife Luci live just outside the church compound with their four children. The allure of the church is not unlike other utopian, world-hating sects from the past: certainty based on a fundamentalist reading of the Bible and morality, security in a swiftly changing world, salvation from hellfire, and purity from the stains of sin and immorality. The Southern Poverty Law Center has highlighted this church before, and others like it because of the potential for violence that religious bigotry and hate speech breed. While the connection between indoctrination in hatred and physical violence is hotly debated, and courts have upheld the first amendment rights of groups like Westboro Baptist Church to protest at synagogues, LGBT churches, schools, and the funerals of fallen U.S. soldiers, there is little doubt that when fringe personalities act violently to harm vulnerable individuals and groups, “true believers” like WBC see the hand of God in the deeds. When the Drains take their children to picket the funerals of military service members killed in the line of duty, they and the other members of WBC praise God for taking the life of another “fag enabler.” According to ABC’s 20/20, Steve Drain, Bo’s father, said the church arrives at the funerals to let families know their loved ones are in hell because they fought for a supposedly damned country. “Remember what we all say: No God fearing man or woman would lift a finger fighting for a country awashed in sin like this,” Steve Drain said to his son. Though the Drains have an estranged eldest daughter, Lauren, who rejects the hatred her family and WBC has taught her, the younger children are content to protest, picket, and preach for hate, at least for now. Bo tells ABC News, “I’m preaching and I’m going with this church, and that’s what the church says. I’m going to go with that my entire life”—A sobering thought for Father’s Day.
Savannah, GA – Two U.S. Marines were imprisoned Saturday for an unprovoked attack on a gay man in a downtown park. Kieran Daly, 26, an openly gay man, was allegedly accosted with homophobic slurs and then brutally attacked by Keil Joseph Cronauer, 22, and Christopher Charles Stanzel, 23, both stationed at Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina. The Marines, in town on leave, were apprehened by Savannah-Chatham Police Officers as they ran from the scene of the crime, and arrested for what the victim and witnesses to the assault are calling an anti-gay hate crime, according to the Savannah Daily News. Though the Marines maintained to police that they were merely rebuffing unwanted attention from Daly, witnesses say that both men charged upon Daly after he tried to walk away from them. The witnesses further report that one of the Marines became enraged, shouting that Daly had “winked” at him. One of the Marines demanded that Daly respect him because he had recently served in Iraq, and one of them yelled a homophobic epithet at Daly as the attack unfolded. In a rage, one of them struck the victim on the skull from behind with his fist. Daly fell to the ground suffering two seizures, rendered unconscious. At one point, the victim apparently stopped breathing, since police reporting to the scene saw Daly’s friends applying CPR to him as he lay motionless on the pavement. He was rushed to Memorial University Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with bruises on his brain. Daly’s assailants were arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery for attacking the gay man. The crime was committed at about 3:45 AM near Congress and Bull Streets, near historic Forsyth Park. In a hospital room interview late Saturday with the Daily News, Daly makes a point of saying that he in no way winked at or otherwise provoked the young Marines. “The guy thought I was winking at him,” Daly said. “I told him, ‘I was squinting, man. … I’m tired.’ That’s the last thing I remember is walking away.” Daly is expected to be in the hospital for several days. While Savannah-Chatham police say that their LGBT liaison officer is closely monitoring the subject, nothing at this point indicates that the case is being investigated as a hate crime. The relatively mild charge against the Marines indicates a reluctance to break with Savannah’s bad reputation among its gay and lesbian population. Jess Morgan, Gay-Straight Alliance President at Armstrong State Atlantic University, told the Daily News that LGBT residents of Savannah face discrimination and harassment on a regular basis. They cannot safely be open about their sexual orientation in any public way without threat of punishment, Morgan said. Georgia still does not have anti-LGBT hate crime protection on the the state level, one of only five states that have no such law on the books. Daly may be a civilian casualty of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). Chicago Pride points out that the firestorm over repeal of DADT has created an increasingly tense situation for lesbians and gays coming into contact with Marines. The Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, General James T. Conway, is commonly identified by national media as leading the fight against the repeal of DADT among senior military officers, suggesting to Marines that anger against LGBT people is somehow justified. Police records show Cronauer and Stanzel have been released to into the custody of Marine military police.
Harrison, AR – Ten-year-old Andrew Pendergraft has a picture-perfect American family, and preaches hatred against LGBT people and racial minorities. He hates “homosexual heroes” and “race mixing.” In the most recent edition of “Hatewatch,” the Southern Poverty Law Center highlights the story of this young, blond boy and his sisters Charity, 19, and Shelby, 17, who are being reared by their parents in the culture of hatred for all things non-white and homosexual. The Sun carries an extensive article with revealing photos of the boy, who recently ranted against the Disney animated film, “The Princess and the Frog.” While Andrew opines that the African American Princess is good for all the “black kids,” the fact that the Prince is white is terrible, because that is “race mixing”: “If all other people mix up there won’t be any more white kids,” the Sun quotes him as saying, “So don’t race-mix.” Andrew goes on to complain that the film is anti-Christian since the “good guy” is a Voodoo priest, and Voodoo is a black race blasphemy, while Christianity is the religion of white people. “Voodoo doctors worship the Devil so it’s a pretty bad movie for kids, especially white kids,” Andrew concludes. “Be white and proud. Bye.” The story of the Pendergrafts who have swallowed Klu Klux Klan doctrine hook, line, and sinker, is a warning to American society about the new shape of deadly hatred in this country: the intersection of oppressions and hatreds. Race hatred and anti-semitism do not exist in a vacuum from homophobia and heterosexism. In the Sun interview, Andrew’s mother Rachel proudly states that she home schooled her children because if they were to attend a public school, her kids would be taught about “heroes of the homosexual agenda, and that it is OK to race-mix.” Mrs. Pendergraft goes on to say, “They would be taught that there is a great socialist agenda in America and they can get on that bandwagon.” Undergirding the new face of American hatred is an old evil: support for hate ideology by a particularly intolerant version of the Christian religion. Little Andrew loves to go to the White Christian Revival Center in Harrison where he preaches, and after he finishes shooting his latest segment on the family internet TV project, “White People TV,” he and about 30 other Klan Kids go out bowling. “It is so much fun!” Andrew enthuses. The flaming cross is central to the whole hate project, according to Andrew’s sister, Charity, and has been misunderstood by outsiders and race-mixers: “We don’t call it cross-burning. It is meant to highlight that Jesus died for us on the cross,” she told the Sun. The sincerity of this belief, that the Christian God only approves of white, straight people, and their paranoia about the supposed “extinction of the White race,” make for a dangerous future when inculcated in children so young. According to The Sun, current membership of the KKK in the United States stands at around 8,000, and is growing strongly after the election of America’s first African American “race-mixing” President, Barack Obama.