July 2, 2015 By Michael Florio
Elected officials, LGBT activists and community members gathered last night to honor the memory of a Jackson Heights resident who was killed 25 years ago because he was gay.
A candle light vigil, hosted by Councilman Daniel Dromm, was held to honor Julio Rivera, a man who was tragically murdered by three members of a skinhead gang who went out looking to kill a gay man.
More than 50 community members, activist and members of the Rivera family joined Dromm to pay their respects last night at Julio Rivera Corner, located at the southwest corner of 78th Street and 37th Ave.
Rivera, a 29-year-old bartender at the time of his death, was walking home on July 2nd, 1990, at 3 a.m. when two men, Erik Brown, 21, and Esat Bici, 19, approached him.
The two men lured Rivera into the schoolyard of P.S. 69 at 77-02 37th Ave, where the pair and a friend, Daniel Doyle, began beating Rivera with a hammer and beer bottle. He later died from a stab wound that was inflicted by Doyle.
Police originally viewed the murder as a “drug deal gone bad” but ultimately declared the case a hate crime.
Following the murder, the neighborhood rallied against hate crimes and held several vigils in Rivera’s honor. This tradition continued last night.
“His death was not in vain; so many positive things have resulted from this tragedy,” said Ted Rivera, brother of Julio, who thanked the community for keeping his brother’s memory alive.
Rivera’s murder sparked the Queens LGBT movement and led to the creation of the Queens Pride Parade.
“Julio’s murder twenty five years ago sparked an outrage and a determination in our community to speak up and send a powerful message against anti-LGBT hate and bias crimes,” Dromm said last night.
“The attention brought to anti-gay bias against victims like Julio and countless others helped our efforts to pass anti-bias and anti-discrimination laws in our state and across the country,” Dromm added.
Other attendees also noted that Rivera’s death was the catalyst for the LGBT movement.
“Twenty five years ago, the Jackson Heights community was galvanized into action to help spark meaningful change across our borough and beyond, and today we are closer to a more just and equal society because of it,” Congressman Joe Crowley said.
Dromm was pleased with last night’s turnout and said it was important for the community to make sure Rivera’s legacy lives on.