Things That Matter

Racist Sentenced To 11 Years In Arson Hate Crime Against Latino Neighbors

If you don’t think Latinos have it rough already, with ICE chasing people down and a sitting President who is anti-immigrant, I hate to break it to you, but crime against Latinos is up. A report by NBC News found that hate crimes have been up since Trump’s election. And, Richard Eugene O’Hara, 61, a recently convicted arsonist from Canal Area in San Rafael, which itself is part of Marin County, one of the wealthiest counties in the U.S., just needed to add to those crime stats.

O’Hara was charged for the crime of arson. Yes, arson, the burning of people and their belongings for the purpose of destroying their stuff and/or murdering them. No big. Just “kill it with fire” but instead of something like bugs (which you definitely shouldn’t kill with fire, but I bet people would understand if you did, because ew) we’re talking about human beings. In this case, Latino human beings specifically.

You shouldn’t kill anything with fire ever, but I’m sure someone would forgive you if you took a blow torch to these guys.

The Judge called O’Hara “a methamphetamine-addicted bigot who displayed no remorse.”

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Hate Crimes Towards Latinos Spiked in 2019; Overall Highest They’ve Been in a Decade

Things That Matter

Hate Crimes Towards Latinos Spiked in 2019; Overall Highest They’ve Been in a Decade

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

In April of 2019, Connie and Michelle Pineda moved into the quiet suburban neighborhood of Lake Forest in Louisville, Kentucky. At first, their lives were peaceful and uneventful. But soon, the family began to receive a barrage of mysterious harassment.

First, it was the odd chemical burns they found on their front lawn–marks that seemed man-made. Then, some neighborhood kids called the Pineda children a racial slur (the Pinedas are a mixed Latino-Filipino family).

Soon, Connie and Michelle Pineda were waking up to a bright orange swastika accompanied by the n-word spray painted on their driveway.

Photo: Michela Connie Pineda/Facebook

The Pinedas checked their security cameras and discovered the culprit: their neighbor, 52-year-old Suzanne Craft. The Pinedas reported Craft to the authorities, and she was charged with criminal mischief and sentenced to seven days in jail. But that hasn’t stopped her from continuing the harassment. A bag of bullets recently appeared on the Pinedas’ front lawn. It came with a note that read: Get out.

“They live in fear,” the Pinedas’ attorney Vanessa Cantley told The Washington Post. “They have five children and three of them are old enough to know exactly what’s happening. They won’t go out and play in the yard. They won’t go out to walk the neighborhood. They are basically prisoners in their own home. The whole family sleeps in the living room, where there are no windows, because they just don’t know what this woman is capable of.”

Photo: Michela Connie Pineda/Facebook

Unfortunately, stories like this are becoming more and more common in the United States.

The FBI released their annual report detailing hate crime statistics and the data showed that hate crimes have reached their highest level in more than a decade. The report also showed the highest amount of hate-motivated killing since the FBI began collected this type of data in the early 1990s.

According to the FBI report, there were 51 hate-motivated killings in 2019. Twenty-two of those murders were from the El Paso Shooting.

In August of 2019, a gunman open-fired on patrons at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas. It was later discovered that the shooting was racially-motivated. Previous to his killing spree, the shooter wrote on Facebook that Mexicans were “invading” the United States.

Hate crimes against Latinos spiked to 527 in 2019, up from 485 in 2018. Many critics are attributing the rise in hate crimes to the divisive culture we live in–much of which is fueled by President Trump’s racist anti-Latino rhetoric. “When the president calls [Latinos] rapists and criminals, what do you think is gonna happen?” said one Twitter user in response to the news. “His words have meaning to a lot of people and their actions are harmful for our society.”

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Puerto Rico’s LGBTQ Community Is Under Attack And The Government Is Doing Little To Help

Things That Matter

Puerto Rico’s LGBTQ Community Is Under Attack And The Government Is Doing Little To Help

The Coronavirus has shaken Puerto Rico as it’s faced more than 2,000 cases and 114 deaths. And this health pandemic has come amid the island’s ongoing recovery from a string of earthquakes and Hurricane Maria. But the island is also suffering from an epidemic of anti-LGBTQ violence.

In 2020 alone, there have been more than 10 murders of LGBTQ individuals – five of them have been trans women and authorities have solved only three of them. For many in the community, it’s a shock to see that the island is right back where they were ten years ago when the island suffered another rash of LGBTQ-targeted killings.

Hate crimes have risen amid the island’s struggle to contain the Coronavirus pandemic.

Credit: Gabriella Baez / Getty

Puerto Rico has been hit by an “epidemic of violence” with five transgender murders in two months.

Opposition lawmakers and campaigners called on the government to publicly acknowledge and investigate the violence, after the bodies of two trans women were found inside a charred car last week and another trans woman was killed in February. 

“Trans people are living in fear, they are terrified,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, spokesman for the Broad Committee for the Search for Equality, an LGBT+ rights advocacy group. 

“It’s as if they’ve opened hunting season against the LGBT+ community, and they’re hunting us, they’re looking for us and they are killing us,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Trans women have been particularly targeted in several gruesome attacks.

Out of the 10 deaths affecting the LGBTQ community, five of them have been trans women.

One woman was killed after being placed in a men’s prison after authorities refused to admit her to a women’s prison. There, she was beaten, tortured, raped and hanged. Her attackers have since been arrested and convicted.

Two trans women were shot and then burned alive in their vehicle. And then another trans women, Alexa, was brutally attacked after being followed by groups of social media trolls

”The killing of a person believed to be a transgender woman that has shocked and angered many in Puerto Rico is likely a hate crime,” Gov. Wanda Vázquez said Tuesday.

“Everything points to this being a hate crime, and that’s how it will be treated,” she said.

Homophobic rhetoric from politicians and religious leaders may have fuelled the bloodshed. 

The current Puerto Rican government has been embroiled in scandal after scandal and much of it has revolved around it’s obvious homophobic rhetoric. The government is working to roll back hard on protections, including adoption rights, hospital visitation, and abortion rights.

Puerto Rico’s leaders have also attempted to pass a ‘religious liberty’ bill that would legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

When a government gives permission to discriminate, you’ll see the spike in violence like the island is seeing. If the government isn’t going to do anything to stop the violence and the police are less likely to investigate, society feels like it can literally get away with murder.

For many, the growing violence is a shock considering Puerto Rico has been making progress against homophobia and transphobia.

Just ten years ago, Puerto Rico suffered another rash of homophobic violence after eight gay and bi men were killed in the span of a couple of months. Their murders shocked much of the country and led to the progress that many borinqueños are proud of.

While many other Caribbean islands outlaw gay sex, the U.S. territory has introduced legal reforms, legalising same-sex marriage in 2015 and allowing trans people to change their gender on birth certificates in 2018.

In fact, Puerto Rico enacted legislation and protections that secured it’s spot at number 20 among the 55 U.S. states and territories when it comes to LGBTQ protections.

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