As Donald Trump spoke inside Patchogue’s Emporium Thursday, Joselo Lucero stood a few hundred feet away at the site where a 17-year-old boy fatally stabbed his brother Marcelo in 2008.
Authorities later ruled the deadly attack against the Ecuadorean immigrant a hate crime.
The visit to the village by the GOP front-runner — known for his harsh criticism of undocumented immigrants — was like “a slap in my face,” Joselo Lucero said Thursday with tears in his eyes.
More than 120 area residents, community leaders, clergy and advocates for immigrant rights joined him for a vigil to honor his brother and counter what he called Trump’s “hate speech” and “rhetoric against immigrants.”
Many of those gathered said prayers and talked about the life and death of Marcelo Lucero. About two blocks away a separate group of more boisterous protesters carried signs and shouted anti-Trump slogans.
The vigil came after repeated attempts by Joselo Lucero and others to convince Suffolk County Republican Party Chairman John Jay LaValle to cancel Trump’s appearance.
Thursday, Lucero and others argued that it was disrespectful to hold the Republican fundraiser so close to what vigil participant Rabbi Steven Moss called “consecrated ground.”
Moss, chairman of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission, gestured toward a photo of the slain 37-year-old, part of a small sidewalk memorial set up in his memory, and said “a part Marcelo’s soul resides there.”
Earlier this week, LaValle said organizers planned the event about two months ago — long before Trump agreed to speak. He accused immigrant-rights advocates of “politicizing tragedy.”
Seven teenagers looking for Hispanics to beat up attacked Marcelo Lucero on Railroad Avenue on the night of Nov. 8, 2008. Jeffrey Conroy plunged a knife into him and he later died.
All seven were convicted on a number of assault-related charges. Conroy is serving a 25-year prison term for first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime.
Rev. Francis Pizzarelli, weekend associate pastor at the Roman Catholic St. Francis de Sales Church in Patchogue, said Trump’s appearance so close to the stabbing site “is bringing us back to a very difficult time in this village’s history.”
“There’s been so much healing in this community, a community that really suffered around divisiveness, and unfortunately, the Republican candidate who is speaking has very disturbing views on immigration and diversity,” he said.
Down Railroad Avenue, a raucous protest attracted more than 100 people who shouted “Stand up, fight back” and carried signs with slogans such as “Hate is not welcome in Patchogue.”
Police kept them a block away from the Emporium, behind metal fencing.
Protester Fernando Sosa, 59, of Central Islip, said Trump couldn’t be ignored.
“We have to show America that wherever he goes, people are standing up to his ideas,” he said.
With Deon J. Hampton