NY archbishop says he’s saddened by spate of suspected anti-Hispanic attacks blamed on blacks

Sunday, August 22, 2010

NY archbishop saddened by suspected bias attacks

NEW YORK — Archbishop Timothy Dolan told parishioners during Mass on Sunday that he was saddened by a spate of suspected anti-Hispanic attacks on Staten Island that has left some Latin American immigrants fearing for their safety.

Dolan made the remarks during a Spanish-language sermon at the Church of St. Mary of the Assumption in the borough’s Port Richmond section.

The small neighborhood is home to the majority of the borough’s Mexican immigrants, who have been the targets of most of the dozen attacks since April, authorities have said. A gay Hispanic couple also was attacked in one incident.

In the most recent attack, a 15-year-old Mexican was robbed of his MP3 player at knifepoint on Aug. 18, the Staten Island prosecutor’s office said.

Police classified the attack as a bias crime. The prosecutor’s office said it was not charging a suspect in the attack with a bias crime pending further investigation.

The suspect, Yashua Plair, 17, pleaded not guilty to charges including robbery and menacing on Sunday afternoon. He faces up to 25 years in prison, if convicted on the top charge. He is being held on bail.

The prosecutor’s office didn’t have his attorney’s name. His home phone appeared to be disconnected.

The attacks have underscored long-simmering tensions between Hispanic immigrants and blacks.

Most of the suspects were described as young black men and were investigated for bias crimes; a grand jury has indicted only one of seven people arrested on a hate crime charge.

Dolan, leader of the Archdiocese of New York, said his message to parishioners Sunday was God wants people to come together.

“God is our father,” said Dolan, whose archdiocese is the nation’s second-largest diocese after Los Angeles. “He wants us all to be his children. He wants to gather us together in the unity of his kingdom.”

The residents of Port Richmond need to hear that message more than ever because of the recent attacks, he said.

(This version CORRECTS name of church in 2nd paragraph to Church of St. Mary of the Assumption, instead of St. Mary’s of The Assumption Roman Catholic Church.)

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