— -- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, whose campaign targeted illegal immigration from the beginning, will hit the trail on Long Island, New York, but a group of protesters there fear his appearance will dredge up old tensions in one community that’s still healing from a Latino hate crime eight years ago.
Trump will address the Suffolk County Republican Committee to raise funds for GOP candidates before the New York primary next Tuesday. The gala today will be held at the Emporium nightclub in Patchogue, a village on the south shore of Long Island, just blocks from where a white teen stabbed an Ecuadorian immigrant to death.
A group of teens pounced on 37-year-old Marcelo Lucero in 2008, a slaying for which a jury convicted Jeffrey Conroy in 2010, resulting in his 25-year sentence for first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime. Conroy was 17 at the time of the attack.
And while it won’t be the first time Trump’s event is distracted by demonstrators, Marcelo's brother, Joselo Lucero, has asked protesters “to not be involved in any confrontations.”
“I’m encouraging everyone to not be involved in any type of violence,” Lucero said on a video posted to Facebook today.
Joselo Lucero first reacted to the GOP front-runner's expected appearance in an op-ed titled, “Donald Trump’s LI visit dishonors my brother’s memory.”
“For me, it represents a flashback to the most painful time of my life: Marcelo’s violent death,” Lucero wrote in Newsday Wednesday. “They all paid for that act with prison terms, including a very long one for the person who stabbed my big brother. My family and I have paid, too, with endless grief.”
Lucero said he doesn’t “blame” Trump for attending the event in Patchogue.
“I blame John Jay LaValle, the Suffolk County Republican chairman,” Lucero said. “He should have known better than to invite someone who speaks so hatefully of immigrants to a fundraiser a short walk away from the site of the fatal attack on my brother.”
John Jay LaValle, the Suffolk County GOP Chair, endorsed Trump for president this month.
In a statement, LaValle offered the "greatest empathy possible" to the family of Lucero, but noted the venue is frequently used by the Suffolk County Republican Committee.
"We can’t help but to be suspicious of the motives of those leading the charge to connect that vicious hate crime with Mr. Trump’s commitment to enforcement of immigration laws that have gone largely ignored by both parties, for 30 years," LaValle said.
"Neither Mr. Trump, nor the Suffolk County Republican Committee’s more than 1,000 members, many of whom are Church-going upstanding members of the community, would ever condone a hate crime."
Lucero wraps up the op-ed published in Newsday, saying: “I won’t carry picket signs and stand outside the nightclub to confront anyone. I’ll show up, as I have so often in the past, stand at the site I consider sacred to Marcelo’s memory, and remember him with a prayerful, peaceful vigil — accompanied by many compassionate people.”