Monday, June 26, 2006

Murdered: Clarksville civil rights leader Juan Vasquez and son Thomas

Leaf-Chronicle PhotoThe Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle reports in this article that Juan Vasquez and his son Thomas Vasquez were the victims of violent deaths in Montgomery County this weekend. A vigil last night highlighted Juan Vasquez's accomplishments as a civil rights leader and founder of Hispanic Organization for Progress and Education ("HOPE"). Vasquez's advocacy also included work with the NAACP Clarksville chapter and service as vice chairman of the Clarksville Human Relations Commission, according to this AP story on

Montgomery County and Clarksville police have ruled the deaths homicides and believe the victims knew the killers, but no motive has been determined and no suspects have been named.

The Vasquez murders come three months after a bloody march in Middle Tennessee, in which three Hispanic entrepreneurs were killed (story here).

Sentiments expressed at the vigil and recorded by the Leaf-Chronicle include this tribute:

"'Our light is shining now in honor of Juan and Thomas. This light here can not be pushed out by the darkness. Do not be afraid,' said Tommy Vallejos, local pastor and president of Hispanic Organization for Progress and Education. Vallejos said since Juan Vasquez started HOPE, the vigil was a reminder that he and his son were a shining light for all people."

"'(Juan's) vision for HOPE was to come together as a community. It didn't matter if we were black, white, Hispanic, Korean or (other races). We're not going to be divided. It's impossible to put this light out,' Vallejos said as the teary-eyed crowd held each other as they held their candles."

The Leaf-Chronicle article says that services will be held at McReynolds-Nave & Larson Funeral Home at a time to be announced. The sidebar also offers two opportunities to help:

"A memorial fund for Juan Vasquez and Thomas Vasquez has been established at U.S. Bank to help the family with funeral services and other costs. HOPE volunteers also will be set up at area Wal-Mart stores collecting donations for the Vasquez family."

"Anyone with information about the Vasquez's deaths should call the anonymous Clarksville Crime Stoppers tips line at (931) 645-TIPS."

Focus: Justice

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