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Arrogant criminals flout U.S. Law in New York, American activist arrested

October 16, 2000

Vigil Rejects Racism

2,000 rally for immigrants, protest violence and hatred

by Bart Jones and Zachary R. Dowdy
Staff Writers

A multihued crowd of 2,000 people, carting homemade signs protesting a wave of anti-immigrant fervor in Farmingville, held a candlelight vigil last night in response to escalating racial tensions in the wake of a brutal attack on two Mexican day laborers.

Even before the 6 p.m. rally kicked off, Suffolk County police arrested the outspoken leader of a group critical of the mainly undocumented day laborers who gather on Horse Block Road in Farmingville.

But the trespassing charges against Margaret Bianculli-Dyber, head of the Sachem Quality of Life Organization, did not disrupt the rally, where speakers included everyone from politicians, civil-rights activists and priests to immigrants from Kosovo and Latin America and a survivor of the Holocaust.

Breaking into bilingual chants of Gananemos la lucha! -- Spanish for "We will win the struggle!" -- and "The people united will never be defeated," the crowd cheered as a dozen speakers vowed that Long Islanders will not tolerate bigotry.

"Violence and hatred have no place here on Long Island," said Rabbi Steven Moss of the B'Nai Israel Reform Temple in Oakdale, who was master of ceremonies for the event. "Let us say no to bias, no to hatred, no to bigotry. Let us say yes to love."

Farmingville day laborer Jorge Ramirez said the attack on the Mexican laborers, which has received wide media attention, has national repercussions. He echoed comments by Suffolk County Human Rights Commission Director Yvonne Pena, who told the crowd that bias crimes "tear at the very fabric of our society."

"The attack against them was an attack against the entire immigrant community of the United States," said Ramirez, who added that he was attacked by 15 white youths in Farmingville recently when he refused to buy alcohol and cigarettes for them.

"We are peaceful people, and all we want is to work," he said.

The demonstration outside the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge was the latest in a series of protests and counter-demonstrations by people on both sides of the issue.

The rally was prompted by the Sept. 17 attack on the two day laborers, who were lured from their home in Farmingville to an abandoned warehouse in Shirley by two white men who promised them work. Once at the site, the Mexicans were attacked from behind with tools and a knife. One was nearly killed.

Tuesday, Ryan Wagner, 19, of Maspeth, Queens, surrendered, and police said he admitted that he left Queens at 4:30 a.m. on Sept. 17 and drove 50 miles to Suffolk County to attack the Mexicans. Wagner has 18 tattoos, including a swastika and 10 white supremacy markings, police said. He was charged with two counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault and could face up to 50 years in prison if convicted. Police said there was no indication that Wagner belonged to any hate groups but that he did frequent Web sites of white supremacy groups.

The second attacker remains at large. Police said he is a friend of Wagner's who had been living in Holbrook.

Last night's peace rally came a day after the Sachem Quality of Life Organization held its own town hall meeting, which featured a national anti-illegal immigration leader from California. That speaker, Glenn Spencer, addressed about 200 people, saying illegal immigrants were corrupting American society.

Spencer heads Voice of Citizens Together, which national civil-rights and immigrant-rights organizations label a "hate" group. Spencer, who also hosts the weekly national radio program "American Patrol Report," denied the allegation.

Members of the Sachem group also deny they are racist, saying they are concerned only with quality-of-life problems associated with the day laborers. Those issues include large numbers of men loitering on corners, overcrowded houses and the violation of immigration laws, the group says. Yesterday, Bianculli-Dyber was charged with trespassing about 4:30 p.m. after she crossed a yellow-tape boundary that police had placed on a Farmingville parking lot to separate about 50 day laborers boarding buses to the rally from about 30 members of Bianculli-Dyber's group. The Sachem group was staging a counterprotest to the rally and later demonstrated against Bianculli-Dyber's arrest outside the Suffolk Police Sixth Precinct station in Coram.

Yesterday's anti-hate vigil attracted people from area churches, synagogues, Islamic centers, community groups, high schools, peace organizations and charities. In the crowd were trade unionists, homemakers and people from all walks of life. It was organized by Paul Tonna (R-West Hills), the Suffolk County Legislature's presiding officer, along with the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission and various other community organizations.

Emotions ran high at the event.

"What happened and is happening in Suffolk County is appalling," said Cindy Cavallo, 45, of Huntington, who stood in the crowd. "I think we all have to unite and do something about it. I think we have to let the people know who are doing these hateful things we won't tolerate it." Signs bobbing above the sea of heads and shoulders had slogans that ranged from the punchy -- "Down with racism" -- to the rhetorical: "We are human beings. Why the hate?"

Gary Williams, president of the Brookhaven branch of the NAACP, said race was the motivator in the attack on the two laborers.

"Two men were brutalized for no other reason than they wanted to support their families," Williams said. "They were beaten for no other reason than their skin."