Joselo Lucero stood Monday morning near the spot on Patchogue’s Railroad Avenue where his brother was attacked in a fatal 2008 hate crime to make the point that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump should not bring his charged immigration rhetoric to the village.
On the night of Nov. 8, 2008, Patchogue teenager Jeffrey Conroy, then 17, thrust a knife into Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero just a short walk away from the venue where Trump is expected to speak Thursday before a crowd estimated by organizers of between 1,200 and 1,300.
Joselo Lucero and other advocates are calling for the event to be canceled out of respect for a community scarred by his brother’s death.
The type of harsh talk against illegal immigration espoused by Trump is precisely what empowered Conroy and six other teenagers to go looking for Hispanics to beat up the night his brother died, Joselo Lucero said. He added that he and other opponents of Trump’s fundraiser are planning a protest Thursday.
“This is personal,” said Joselo Lucero, 41, who’s since become an advocate for immigrants. “You know, this is not a reality show where you can say something and you can get away with that.”
Harsh talk against immigrants “has terrible consequences,” he said.
Marcelo Lucero, 37, was walking home in Patchogue when the seven teenagers assaulted him. When he tried to defend himself, Conroy stabbed him. All seven were convicted on a host of assault-related charges. Conroy is serving a 25-year prison sentence for first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime.
The Trump event, a fundraiser hosted by county Republicans at The Emporium, a nightclub and concert venue, feels like a slap in the face, Joselo Lucero said.
“Every dollar he’s going to collect on Thursday is going to have blood. If he uses this money for his campaign, he’s going to have blood in his hands,” he said.
Trump’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment Monday, but Suffolk Republican Chairman John Jay LaValle said immigrant advocates are distorting matters and “politicizing tragedy” without reaching out to hear the event organizers’ side.
The fundraiser is not a Trump event, LaValle said, but a party reception planned about two months ago. All Republican candidates in contention at the time were invited and only Trump responded, the party chairman said.
“They’re trying to make it seem like we set up an event and put it in Patchogue, right on their face . . . and that is not the case,” LaValle said. “This [event] is purely an exercise in democracy and for that matter free speech.”
LaValle said the reception will go on and added he would welcome Republican contenders Ted Cruz and John Kasich if they chose to attend.
“It didn’t even occur to us that this would be an issue,” he said, adding that those opposing Trump’s visit “are the ones that are opening up old wounds and getting the community riled up.”
Tickets to the $150-a-plate reception were “almost sold out,” according to LaValle.
“To invite Donald Trump to speak but a few hundred yards from this spot where his [Lucero’s] brother was killed as a result of a hate crime is an outrage,” said the Rev. Allan Ramirez, retired pastor of the Brookville Reformed Church. “This is sacred ground for the immigrant community that has suffered so much at the hands of those who have hatred in their hearts.”
The Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter, pastor of Congregational Church of Patchogue, said he also opposes the choice of venue because of the “sickening” memories it brings back.
“He had the freedom of speech to speak wherever he wants to, clearly, but then what is your motive in speaking here?” Wolter said. “My hope and my goal is that we will find ways to speak across those boundaries” dividing the electorate.
An employee at the Emporium said no one there was authorized to comment on the event.
James Michael, a Patchogue resident and real estate investor, said he didn’t see a problem with Trump’s visit. Michael, 54, a Republican, plans to vote for Trump because he believes he’ll bring overseas manufacturing jobs back to the United States.
As far as the controversy, he said Trump should get his chance to address supporters.
“Obviously there’s going to be people that don’t like him,” he said. “Free speech works both ways, right?”