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Memory of Marcelo Lucero, slain immigrant, honored at vigil

A group of mourners held a vigil Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016, to mark the eighth anniversary of the hate crime death of Marcelo Lucero, who was killed in Patchogue by teens looking to assault Hispanic immigrants. Participants in the annual vigil marched through Patchogue to the site of the killing near the train station. (Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely)

Where blood once stained the concrete pavement, on Sunday, there were scattered pink rose petals and candles at the site of Marcelo Lucero’s killing in Patchogue eight years ago.

Friends, family and residents gathered to commemorate Lucero’s death with a reflective service and a solemn walk to the spot where he was fatally stabbed in what prosecutors called a hate crime.

Standing in front of where Lucero once lay, his brother, 42-year-old Joselo Lucero, said that the gathering Sunday represented “peace and love.”

More than 60 people attended the vigil, which Joselo said he holds annually for two reasons: to honor his brother’s memory, and to prevent this kind of violence from happening ever again.

Marcelo was a “fighter, a dreamer, a workaholic” and a dedicated son who always took care of his family, Lucero said. He was an Ecuadorean immigrant who worked in a dry cleaning store to help support his mother, who had cancer. At the age of 37, he was killed by a group of teenagers by a white shingled house on Railroad Avenue in 2008.

“Violence isn’t going to lead anywhere. . . . Everyone is a human being,” Lucero said.

During the ceremony, which also included a guided meditation and musical session, people read poems and short pieces in both Spanish and English. One person read simply “I wish for peace,” another read an excerpt of one of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches, saying that “darkness cannot drive out darkness.” Attendees pinned colored hearts to their lapels, and gazed at a photo of a youthful Marcelo clad in overalls.

After the service, the group walked to the site of Marcelo’s death, carrying a yellow banner decorated with a sketch of him and the words “Culture of Peace.” The procession included Village Mayor Paul Pontieri, who said that Marcelo’s killing shook not only the “bones of Patchogue” but all of Long Island.

Patchogue has a large Latino community that composes nearly 30 percent of the village’s total population of 11,700. The village has one of the largest Ecuadorean communities in the United States, according to the 2010 census.

Lucero was walking with a friend near the Patchogue train station when he was attacked by seven teens looking to assault Hispanic immigrants.

One of the attackers, Jeffrey Conroy, stabbed Lucero, 37, killing him. Conroy is serving a 25-year prison sentence after being convicted by a jury of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime. The other six defendants are serving sentences ranging from 5 to 8 years.

Advocates say that anti-immigrant hostility is still present in this neighborhood.

“It’s important to show that there is unity across racial lines and ethnic lines,” said Patchogue resident Barry Fruchter, 69. “Diversity is here and in many places . . . and there is racist pushback.”

Patchogue resident Jorge Marca, 43, said that this vigil was critically important for the Latino community this year. By attending the vigil, the Latino community could show politicians like GOP nominee Donald Trump that “we aren’t like what he says,” said his wife, Yolanda Marca, 39.

Lucero said that he believed in working together to create change, especially in light of divisive immigration discussion raised by the presidential race. He noted that Marcelo’s death falls on Election Day.

“There is a lot of anxiety,” Lucero said. “We as minorities don’t know where we stand right now.”

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