Sunday, July 27, 2008

Going Home

From the heart of Hillary land: Shenandoah, a small town in Pennsylvania, is dealing with the aftermath of the beating death of a young Hispanic man.

The incident occurred on July 12, as described by the Allentown Morning Call, Fatal beating: Hate crime?:

Luis Ramirez came to the United States from Mexico six years ago to look for work, landing in this Schuylkill County town. Here, he found steady employment, fathered two children and, his fiancee said, occasionally endured harassment by white residents.

Now he is headed back to Mexico in a coffin.

The 25-year-old illegal immigrant was beaten over the weekend after an argument with a group of youths, including at least some players on the town's beloved high school football team, police said. Despite witness reports that the attackers yelled ethnic slurs, authorities say the beating wasn't racially motivated.
Eleven days after his death from injuries related to the beating, 3 out of 6 local teens were arrested for the crime. The teens were football players on the high school squad in a town where football is revered, no doubt adding to the tensions created in this town in the aftermath of the attack. According to a follow up piece in the Morning Call, two of the teens were charged as adults with homicide, ethnic intimidation and related offenses, 3 teens charged in Mexican's beating death, which provided details of the crime:
The six teens happened upon Luis Ramirez after spending the night of July 12 drinking in the woods and going to a block party.

About 11:15 p.m., as they walked past the 25-year-old man and a teenage girl near Vine Street Park in Shenandoah, they taunted her: ''Get your Mexican boyfriend out of here.'' According to court records, one called Ramirez a racial slur. He responded, ''What's your problem?''

Some of the teens went after him. A fight broke out. Ramirez fell. They punched and kicked him repeatedly, the court records say.

These details of what led to the death of Ramirez, a father of two who came to the United States from Mexico illegally six years ago, emerged Friday when authorities announced the arrests of Shenandoah residents Colin J. Walsh, 17; Brandon J. Piekarsky, 16; and Derrick M. Donchak, 18.

All three played on the Shenandoah Valley High School football team last season. Donchak, who has since graduated and was headed to Bloomsburg University next month, was the quarterback.

The beating death has heightened racial tensions in Shenandoah, a coal mining town dotted with ethnic churches.
See also, DA charges teens in deadly beating. The irony of the proponderence of churches in the town is that Ramireez' chest had an imprint of the Jesus medialion that he was wearing when the teens stomped on him, as noted by the Morning Call. It was also interesting to note that the teens were from "Shenandoah Heights," which generally means that they lived in the "better part of town." Good Christians, from good families.

Despite the initial reaction of the local police, I must applaud the of the District Attorney who charged the teens for his handling of the crime, as well as the coverage by the local paper, The Republican Herald. An editorial shortly after Ramirez' death is Fatal beating cries out for justice to be served:
It’s something one might expect to hear from some well-known world trouble spot ... Iraq, Afghanistan ... maybe the Palestinian territory.

After all, most of the time it seems people in those places have little to do but blow up, shoot or beat others in an endless cycle of terrorism and retribution.

Certainly those people aren’t thinking clearly, not like we do here in Pennsylvania and Schuylkill County.

From the perspective here, those Middle Eastern killing fields, frankly, resemble our perception of Hell.

So the idea of someone walking home in Schuylkill County on a warm summer night being accosted, taunted and beaten to death is, well, preposterous.

This is America, land of immigrants, the great melting pot, beacon of democracy, liberty — and tolerance.

Maybe it’s time to drop the smugness.
As the editorial noted, racial tensions have risen in that area due to an influx of Hispanics to the community, fueled by those who are merely two generations removed from their own immigrant heritage. And it's another part of the pattern of a rise in racial hate crimes that has been occuring here and across the counry, formented in my view, by the increasing acceptability of expressing bigotry.

In a not too subtle attempt to wipe some of the blood from his hands, the PA politician from Hazleton, about 20 minutes from Shenandoah, who makes anti-immigrant bias the centerpiece of his political platform, Lou Barletta, tried to distance himself from the crime. Barletta laments beating death:
Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta called the Shenandoah homicide of an illegal immigrant from Mexico “a real tragedy” on Friday and offered condolences to the victim’s family.

“Any time a person here, legally or illegally (is killed), it’s a tragedy when someone’s life is taken,” Mr. Barletta said.

Mr. Barletta said he does not believe his campaign against illegal immigration in any way created an atmosphere that encouraged the killing of Luis Ramirez.
Despite his expressed sympathy, Barletta couldn't help adding:
“The flip side” of Mr. Ramirez’s death is that there are murder victims of illegal immigrants as well, Mr. Barletta said, citing the deaths of a Hazleton man and Lewisburg woman at the hands of illegal immigrants.
Of course, these sentiments make Barletta popular in many areas of the Keystone State, in the Central and northern heart of darkness. These are the same people who helped defeat Obama in the state;s primary, Race Matters.

The murder has, not surprisingly, brought forth some of the horrible haters, who have tried to twist the facts to make it seem as though the victim were responsible for his fate. See American Humanity, Luis Ramirez Beaten To Death: Some Try to Justify.

No comments: