Thousands pay tribute to slain gay teens

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Monday November 23, 2009

Thousands of people in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Oakland, Calif., and other cities around the country attended memorials, vigils and other events held over the weekend to pay tribute to slain gay teenagers Jorge Steven Lpez Mercado of Puerto Rico and Jason Mattison, Jr., of Baltimore.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, City Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito, openly gay City Councilmember-elect Danny Dromm, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation president Jarrett Barrios and fashion designer Malan Breton were among the hundreds who attended a vigil on the Christopher Street Pier in Manhattan's West Village last night. Mark-Viverito reiterated her call for Puerto Rican authorities to bring hate crimes charges against the man who has repeatedly confessed to Lpez's death. And she joined Quinn and others who blasted Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuo for not denouncing the teen's gruesome murder.

"Silence condones the hate that continues to breed in our community," Mark-Viverito said.

Carlos Velez of the New York City Commission on Human Rights spoke on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's behalf.

"All of us condemn the disgusting and shameful murder of Jorge Steven Lpez Mercado," he said.

Barrios further paid tribute to Lpez in both English and Spanish.

"Today we remember a 19-year-old young man; a beautiful young man," he said (as translated from Spanish.)

Juan A. Martnez Matos reportedly confessed to local investigators he killed Lpez before he decapitated him, dismembered and partially burned his body near Caguas earlier this month. Dante Parish has reportedly confessed he raped and repeatedly stabbed Jason Mattison, Jr., 15, to death before he stuffed him into a closet inside an East Baltimore home on Nov. 10.

Activists who organized many of the vigils across the country sought to memorialize both murdered teenagers, but those who attended the New York memorial seemed largely focused on Lpez's death.

"That was like my son being killed," PFLAG member Carmen Robello told EDGE as she pointed her out her openly gay son is roughly the same age Lpez was when he died and she lived on Puerto Rico for five years. "It bothered me. It could have been my son."

Luna Legacy added the gruesome nature of Lpez's death compelled him and his friends to attend the vigil.

"I was shocked when I heard about it," he said. "This young beautiful boy killed in such a horrific way was shocking."

Stephanie Jones ended the New York vigil by reading aloud a statement from Lpez's mother, Miriam Mercado.

"When my son told me he was gay, I told him, 'Now, I love you more," Mercado stated. "I want to tell the world that hatred is not born with human beings, it is a seed that is planted by adults and is fostered creating a climate of intolerance and violence. We must change our ways and understand that anyone... could have been my son. And I want everybody to know that Jorge Steven was a very much loved son."

She further spoke in a video posted to YouTube yesterday.

"Love will conquer hate; this is what I want to say to the wold," Mercado said (as translated from Spanish.) "Steven was a human being. He was my son. He was a brother."

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.