Jessica Hoffmann

CA Bay Area: Vigil Sunday for Jorge Steven Lopez-Mercado and Jason Mattison Jr.

Filed By Jessica Hoffmann | November 21, 2009 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Jason Mattison Jr., Jorge Steven Lopez-Mercado, vigils

This Sunday in Oakland, Bay Area queers and allies will gather near Lake Merritt for a candlelight vigil and open mic to mourn Jorge Steven López-Mercado and Jason Mattison Jr., queer and gender non-conforming teenagers who were brutally murdered last week. While mourning, the gatherers will also "brainstorm ways to keep their community safer from violence," say vigil organizers.

Lopez-Mercado, 19, was mutilated and murdered last weekend in Puerto Rico by Juan Martinez-Matos. Martinez-Matos has said he dismembered and set fire to Lopez-Mercado after discovering that Lopez-Mercado had male-assigned genitalia and was "wearing women's clothing"--a remark many fear is setting up a "trans panic" defense.

Jason Mattison Jr., 15, was raped and murdered during the same week in Baltimore, Maryland.

Details about the vigil and others across the country after the jump.

Bay Area queers and allies will come together on Sunday to mourn López-Mercado and Mattison, and also to call for a "kind of justice that doesn't rely on increased policing or punishment," say organizers, noting that "the prison system has not made life safer for victims of violence ... violence against queer youth of color is only exacerbated by increased police enforcement, which disproportionally targets and locks up low-income people, people of color, sex workers, and gender non-conforming people."

Artist, activist, and vigil organizer Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha says, "Hate crimes legislation and more police patrols would not make our communities safer. It would not have prevented the murders, and no punishment will bring these two men back. Systemic homophobia and transphobia killed López-Mercado and Mattison, who like other queer or gender non-comforming youth of color faced barriers like street harassment and discrimination in every facet of life. What could've actually saved the two young men are things like free or affordable public transportation, an end to housing and employment discrimination against people of color, queer and trans folks, and the decriminalization of sex work."

Details on the Bay Area vigil:

TIME: Sunday, November 22, 3:30pm
LOCATION: Mac Arthur and Grand Ave. at Lake Merritt
CONTACT: [email protected]??

Vigils mourning López-Mercado and Mattison will also take place this Sunday in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Amherst, MA, Tara Haute, Abilene, TX, Atlanta, and Durham.

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For those closer to San Francisco [or simply sickened by Ms. Piepzna-Samarasinha's predictable Berserkly politically correct blah blah blah horseshit....but thanks for exploiting their murders as another excuse to sing your loony tune, Lele Honey!]:

Event: In Memoriam-Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado
What: Rally
Start Time: Sunday, November 22 at 7:00pm
End Time: Sunday, November 22 at 9:00pm
Where: Castro and Market in San Francisco, CA

I was just saying on Pam's House Blend I hoped this kind of rhetoric wouldn't be at the San Francisco vigil. I'm really sick of it.

How you can turn this into an argument against hate crimes legislation is beyond me. Thank goodness the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act just passed. Now it can be used in Puerto Rico if the local authorities don't do their jobs. This is why we need hate crime laws.

Some people of color belong in prison, as do some white people.

No one belongs in a cage.
All systems of violence are related.
Wishing for healing and a transformed world,

Oh, Mary, please!

But good luck in calling the nearest Organic Tofu & Lentils Fair Trade Bakery for help if you're ever attacked.

Christopher D | November 22, 2009 1:26 AM

Hey Michael! Hate crimes laws aren't about what happens when the crime goes down, they're about what happens many months later in the courts. So guess what? You still call the regular old cops after an attack, not some bakery named after a Rush Limbaugh style slur. Dig?

No one belongs in a cage? Even someone who cuts off somebody's head? What would you do with him, let him go?

You guys are becoming a parody of yourselves. This is the most homophobic queer site I know. Against same-sex marriage, against hate crimes legislation, against LGBT people in the military. It just shows that if you go too far to the left you end up on the right.

While I disagreed slightly with the comment that Claude posted at Pam's House Blend, let's face it, both of these murderers are dangerous to society and need to be locked up. Period.

Don't really want to here how much power that these 2 murders had in relation to society. They had enough power to take someone's life and deserve to pay a penalty for it.

Well, this post is about mourning the deaths of two of our own, and it's also about acknowledging that a legal system will be set into motion in order to address how these deaths came about.

For that reason, it's entirely appropriate to ask what kind of justice gets enacted here, and it's important to keep in mind that the queer community is by no means unanimously in support of hate crimes legislation. For readers curious about knowing more about this principled opposition, I suggest this website:

Beyond that, I'd like to stress the irony in saying, implicitly or otherwise, that it's okay to invoke these deaths in SUPPORT of hate crimes legislation while criticising those who want to mourn and use the occasion of our mourning to resist the HCL/Prison Industrial Complex.

To wit: "How you can turn this into an argument against hate crimes legislation is beyond me. Thank goodness the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act just passed. Now it can be used in Puerto Rico if the local authorities don't do their jobs. This is why we need hate crime laws."

There are lots of contradictions in that set of statements.

Thanks, Yasmin.
(I didn't have the energy ... but am grateful you did!)

“When these type of people get into this and go out into the streets like this, they know this can happen to them"
- Angel Rodriguez, Investigator, Puerto Rico police.
“It’s not like I went up to a school teacher and shot her in the head or killed a straight, law-abiding citizen"
- Allen Andrade, Murderer of Angie Zapata

You can see why some might have qualms about the enthusiasm with which the Puerto Rican authorities might be pursuing this case.

The first sentence of Ms. magazine's review of Silja J. A. Talvi's Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S. Prison System induced my skepticism: "NHI, or no humans involved, is police jargon for the morgue remains of women prostitutes and African Americans." I found it improbable that police officers -- some of whom are themselves women and/or people of color -- would have a widespread term that reduced others of their race and sex to nonentities. However, it's a real and apparently well-known term among those involved in law enforcement.

There's an innocuous way to see the phrase, as in a recent local news item on police jargon: "A great cop phrase is, 'NHI.' This means 'no humans involved.' Cops use it when they are dealing with insignificant matters." It's also been applied to male as well as female prostitutes, and to whites perceived as part of the underclass. From what I have seen, the phrase is most frequently connected with the killings of 45 women in San Diego from the mid-1980s through the early 1990s: a public art project about the serial murder; a police officer writing about his experiences (and other cops' referring to the slayings as "misdemeanor murders"); a feminist work about violence against women.

The offensive use of "No Humans Involved" to signify the speaker's low opinion of people isn't peculiar to police, either. Earlier this year, Judge Charles Greene of Florida's 17th Judicial Circuit (Broward County) roused controversy by telling a prosecutor not to feel badly about a jury's not-guilty verdict, because the attempted murder had been of a minority and thus "N.H.I." His request to be reassigned from the criminal to the civil division was granted.

- De Novo

I am well aware that a few self-hating queers are opposed to hate crime legislation. But if you think that raising that in the face of these horrendous murders helps your case, that just shows how totally out of touch with reality you really are.

I don't think that it is constructive to describe a person as "self-hating queers" just because he or she is opposed to hate crimes legislation. Internalized homophobia is a serious issue and should not be used to scapegoat another person for being in disagreement with you. This dismisses the concerns and issues of the other person and dismisses that person through a personal attack.

Yasmin, I have a question.

What exactly do you and Jessica propose to do in cases like these?

Well...I won't be going to the SF vigil then, I wish I'd made it to oakland instead.

This shaming - "it's hippy dippy to critique hate crimes legislation" rhetoric - is completely reactive and unexamined. People say that hate crimes legislation will "get murderers off the streets" but in doing so they forget that our community (or at least my community) exists within prison walls as well. Locking people up doesn't create safety. It imprisons them with LGBT people, who are an over represented population in prisons, in an environment of violence. Hate crimes legislation does not do anything to decrease violence towards queer and gender non-conforming persons. Do you really expect someone in the midst of an act of violence to say - "OH WAIT, MANDATORY 5 YEARS MORE IMPRISONMENT BECAUSE THEY ARE PART OF A PROTECTED GROUP...NEVERMIND"??? Hate Crimes Legislation is magical thinking - our way of putting a quick and entirely ineffectual fix on a social problem that comes from how power is structured in our society to make homosexuality or gender variance seem like such a threatening thing.

I'm incredible grateful that the community is coming together to propose other ways that we can create a safer world for LGBT folks, outside of relying on judicial punishment/the cops - who have typically been our natural enemies (stonewall anyone?). Campaigning for Hate Crimes Legislation places us in opposition against those who are affected most by incarceration - people of color, poor folks, and those working in street based economies - when we should be working to create alliances with other marginalized folks to foster unions and a safer world for us all.

I agree. Nobody seems to point out, for instance, that Jason Mattison was killed *after* hate crimes legislation passed. "Magical thinking" is a good way to put it.

I spoke at tonight's vigil in Chicago, and am pleased to say that the organisers were great about making sure that voices addressing the need for prevention and for resisting the prison industrial complex were heard.

You're right Cyd: it is totally magical thinking to believe that a piece of legislation will protect anybody. One can name any collection of deceptively dangerous words, "legislation" intended to protect under-represented people, but how does it bring back to life our brothers, sisters, loved ones and others? All it does is serve to stuff more people into boxes run by the draconian governments. People fall back upon the sorely short-sighted reasoning of "if prison is not the answer, then what is?" Unfortunately, for many of us, it is difficult to envision what alternatives look like given that we are entrenched in such ideological State dogma from day-one that we can't see beyond the tip of our own noses most of the time. One of the way the State propagates its power structures is through such ideologies; these tell people that it's impossible to be any other way, or conceptualize reality in any other way, than the predetermined structures prescribed as axioms. Imagination, resistance and vitalities are crushed, and State oppressions proliferate.

It's not that all those who recognize the States' systems of oppression (e.g., prisons) have all the answers; it's more about recognizing the ways the existing systems are more than they appear on the surface, that is, a prison does not actually serve to "lock up bad people" but has hundreds of functions in a society, a school does more than just teach children the "three R's", and so on. The recognition of the extent to which these systems are made and used to control us and erode away our being, seems to beg the realization that "there must be something different out there", and just because the presumed Great Empires before us have persecuted people in similar ways "throughout perpetuity", doesn't mean we have to stop our minds there; and, for the record, there are plenty of instances of societies that had completely different ways of dealing with undesirable acts... why don't many of us know about them? Well, where would the State be if the people understood there are other ways of being...?

So many of our people are killed every year. Let's remember and rally around Jorge and Jason and all the others who have been lost and not use their names to give the very ideological power which helped kill them, the State, the ability to pervert their memories.

Love and solidarity to you all.

Thanks for posting this, Jess, and for sharing Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha's words.

For Chicago, here are the details:

Sunday, November 22, 2009
Time: 4:00pm - 6:00pm
Paseo Boricua (Division and California) Humboldt Park

A peace walk will depart from the corner of Division Ave and California Ave at 4pm and head west on Division Ave to the Humboldt Park Boat House for a candle light vigil.

I thought that Jason Mattison Jr. had been murdered by a family friend. Has more come out on the story?


Thanks for asking. I thought I read that it was a family member in one of the news reports, but I just went back and checked and can't find that. Everything I'm looking at now says "family friend." I'll edit the post, since I can't find a source backing up "family member."


Thanks for putting up the story about the vigil. I wish that I could be there.

FYI - Dallas is holding a vigil also, if there are any readers in the DFW area that aren't aware. 6:00pm tonight (Sunday) at Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs, Dallas, Texas. Candles will be provided, as well as an opportunity to sign two rainbow flags that will be sent to the victims' families.

The larger question that I think the Bay Area vigil organizers (and others) are asking here is -

What will it take to make a world free of violence? A world in which people - queer and gender non-conforming youth of color, and everyone - can move through public space, can live and work and get dressed in the morning as they please and take walks at night and so much more - without fear of being brutally attacked?

Will a violent prison and policing system create that world? It hasn't, and knowing that queer and gender non-conforming youth of color (and many others) are brutally attacked by and within that system, it's hard to see how it could.

To those who have asked, "What would you do?" People working for prison abolition are actively exploring many different models for responding to violence in immediate and structural senses; some people are OK with calling the cops in some circumstances, especially while we have yet to create widespread and effective community-based alternatives, and some advocate not engaging with police at all. These are difficult questions that individuals and communities are answering in their own ways.

(Those curious to explore this further might check out the anthologies Color of Violence by INCITE! and Abolition Now by Critical Resistance. There are lots of other titles, of course, but those feature many different voices and ideas and are good starting points.)

It seems to me not only appropriate but beautiful that the Bay Area organizers (and others) are coming together to mourn the violent loss of these young people and, as part of that mourning and honoring, "to brainstorm ways to keep their community safer from violence" - whether that is the violence of individuals or the violence of the state.


Then highlight the injustices that occur to queer and gender non-conforming youth within that system. I can't think of a society that has ever existed that has not removed murderers from it's midst, through whatever various and sundry trial methods.

Assuming that these men are guilty, I want these people locked up and away from society.

Gee, and I thought Patty Hearst had retired her "Tanya" routine.