The head of the Suffolk County, New York Republican Party is unfazed by critics who are incensed that he invited Donald Trump to speak at an event this week near the site of a fatal anti-Latino hate crime.
“The reality is, this is about free speech,” GOP county chairman John Jay LaValle said Tuesday on MSNBC. “This is about America. This is the leading Republican presidential candidate, probably the next President of the United States, coming to our community to speak to our community, to speak to our voters. The Republican primary is on the 19th. We’re proud to have him.”
Trump is slated to headline a Republican Party fundraiser Thursday in Patchogue, New York, where a group of teenagers attacked and fatally stabbed a 37-year-old Ecuadorean immigrant in 2008. The teenagers involved in the assault on Marcelo Lucero admitted in court to being part of a gang that participated in late-night “beaner hopping” excursions to beat up Latino immigrants.
Lucero’s family was devastated that Trump, who has referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “criminals,” has been invited to speak at a venue yards away from the spot where their loved one was murdered.
“For Donald Trump to come and speak here is sacrilegious,” Rev. Allen Ramirez, a friend of the family, said Monday in a CNN appearance with Lucero’s brother, Joselo. “It is akin to inviting Osama bin Laden to speak at Ground Zero. We will not stand for it, and we ask for this event to be canceled because it does not belong here. It desecrates the memory of Marcelo Lucero.”
Trump has already been cited as the inspiration for several hate crimes against Latinos. Shortly after he declared his candidacy last summer, two Boston-based brothers brutally beat and urinated on a homeless Hispanic man, allegedly telling police, “Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.” In March, a Muslim and a Latino student in Wichita, Kansas said they were attacked at a gas station by a man who allegedly called them “brown trash” and shouted “we will make America great again.”
LaValle defended the decision to extend an invitation to the Republican frontrunner in the Tuesday MSNBC interview, saying the response in Patchogue has been “absolutely incredible.”
“We’re going to have an awesome turnout,” LaValle promised. “We’re very excited about it.”