Monday, November 23, 2009

Thousands Across the Nation Hold Vigils For Teen Victims of Violent Hate Crimes

Across the nation thousands attended vigils Sunday night in remembrance of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, a Puerto Rican gay teen who was savagely murdered and whose burned and decapitated body was discovered last weekend, as well as Jason Mattison Jr., a 15-year-old Baltimore gay teenager who was sexually assaulted and stabbed to death. His body was discovered in his aunt's closet and the suspect is a family friend.

Puerto Rican police are investigating Mercado's murder and considering how the new federal hate crimes law may be applied. An investigator sparked outrage when he suggested that Jorge's "type of lifestyle" caused the teen's untimely death.

Juan Martinez Matos has been charged with Mercado's slaying. Dante Parrish has confessed to and has been booked for Mattison's murder.

In New York City, Council Speaker Christine Quinn spoke to the four or five hundred vigil attendees.

GLAAD President Jarret Barrios also spoke:

The San Francisco Vigil:

Miriam Mercado, mother of Jorge, expressed gratitude for the support shown for her and her family during this difficult time.

Thanks to Andres of Blabbeando for translating.
Hi. My name is Miriam. I am Steven's mom. My family and I are incredibly grateful for all the love, the unconditional support that you have given me. That's what gives me the strength, in part, it gives me the force for me to bring a message: Love conquers hate. And this we have to shout to the world. Because... Steven was a human being. He was my son. He was a brother. I ask you and beg you, everyone in the world, that we should love everyone else no matter what's there. Behind of what is there, there is a human being just like my son that did not deserve this. In the name of my family and my own, I offer my hand, I don't have how to pay back every... the demonstrations and the love that I have received. So we are all going to bring a message: Love conquers hate. And together, we have the strength.
If anyone has an inkling about the pain Miriam must be experiencing, it's Judy Shepard. She has issued the following statement on Jorge's slaying.
Dennis and I, and the entire board and staff of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, stand with all who are grieving the loss of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado in one of the most shockingly brutal hate crimes in Puerto Rico’s history.

While we are grateful to the local law enforcement officials for their swift work to apprehend the suspect in this terrible crime, we remain deeply saddened that yet another family should have to suffer the pain of such a tragedy, and that such breathtaking violence continues to be directed at gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people who are simply trying to live their lives honestly and openly.

For another young person to lose their life and be taken from their family and community due to fear, prejudice and hatred is simply unacceptable. Each of us who believe in freedom and equality must remain vocal, active, and unrelenting in calling for justice.

Our thoughts are with Mr. Lopez, all who knew and loved him, the members of his community and the millions worldwide who have been touched by his senseless death. Our family and the Foundation will continue to work to prevent similar tragedies in any way we can.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated event. The AP reports that new FBI data released today shows that hate crimes against gays increased sharply in 2008. Overall hate crimes increased 2%, and of these there was an 11% increase of hate crimes based on sexual orientation. (Though the AP's reporting on the numbers has been called into question.)

Sadly, these incidents still won't silence the critics and haters who believe the hate crimes bill is an unnecessary, "thoughts crime" law.

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