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Four reputed white supremacist gang members have been arrested in connection with the vicious beating of a Latino man on Nov. 19 in Hemet, Calif. The victim, a 19-year-old whose name police would not release, was knocked unconscious and then repeatedly stomped and kicked in the head. He suffered permanent brain damage and has been placed in a long-term care facility. According to investigators, the attack was random, unprovoked and motivated purely by racial hatred.
Hemet is located in the region of California known as the Inland Empire, which, as the Intelligence Report documented in 2005, has become a hotbed of white supremacist activity during an ongoing phase of rapid demographic shifts.
But the attack is also part of a frightening national pattern of rising anti-Latino violence. Hate crimes targeting Latinos have increased 40% since 2003, according to the most recent FBI statistics, which are known to undercount total hate crimes but nevertheless do indicate real trends. Whatever its exact level, the sharp rise in violence against Latinos has paralleled the spike in anti-immigrant propaganda on both the right-wing extremist margins of society and within the so-called mainstream media.
Last July, for instance, three white teenagers shouting ethnic slurs allegedly beat to death a 25-year-old Mexican immigrant in Shenandoah, Pa. Six weeks later, the nativist extremist group Voice of the People held a “pro-immigration enforcement” rally in Shenandoah, near the site of the murder. The attending crowd of roughly 50 included several members of the Keystone State Skinheads, a Harrisburg, Pa.-based racist skinhead gang.
More recently, in November, seven teens in Patchogue, N.Y., six of them white, decided to “go fight a Mexican” and randomly attacked an Ecuadorean immigrant who died after one of the assailants rushed at him with a knife, authorities said. As The New York Times reported last week: “The attacks were such an established pastime that the youths, who have pleaded not guilty, had a casual and derogatory term for it, ‘beaner hopping.’ One of the youths told the authorities, ‘I don’t go out doing this very often, maybe once a week.’” Times reporters interviewed 11 Latino men in the area who detailed 13 similar — though non-fatal — attacks before the “beaner hopping” finally turned deadly.
The upswing in anti-Latino violence does not seem to be abating. The first documented anti-Latino attack of 2009 occurred on New Year’s Day, when a Vallejo, Calif., motorist was arrested for gunning his vehicle toward a crowd of Latino day laborers. No injuries were reported. Frederick Martin, 31, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and committing a hate crime. Martin told police he was “trying to scare” the workers.